‘I won’t be voting for it . . . I’m very disappointed with the unions’ - Bus Éireann driver

Morale very low on first day back at work for Bus Éireann drivers in Busáras, Dublin

Bus driver Derek Kelly said he would be very surprised if the Labour Court recommendation was not rejected. Photograph: Colm Keena

Bus driver Derek Kelly said he would be very surprised if the Labour Court recommendation was not rejected. Photograph: Colm Keena

 

Morale was “very low” on the first day back at work for Bus Éireann drivers in Busáras, Dublin, according to a number of the workers who expressed anger and disappointment at the outcome of their three week strike.

Most who spoke said they would be rejecting a Labour Court recommendation issued on Thursday which led to their return to work after 21 days on strike over pay and conditions.

“I’d be very surprised if it’s not rejected,” said driver Derek Kelly, referring to the Labour Court recommendation.

In an environment where “everyone else” is getting pay rises and pay restoration, the workers at Bus Éireann are being asked to accept cuts, said the former Dublin Bus worker who has been with the national bus service for 1½ years.

“I won’t be voting for it,” he said. “I’m very disappointed with the unions. I don’t think we should have come back to work. We should have balloted on it first. It would be terrible to disrupt the public again in three weeks’ time, if that turns out to be the case.”

None of the workers at the Busáras depot who spoke to The Irish Times said they would be voting in favour of the recommendation.

“I’m glad to be back at work but I’m not happy with the terms and conditions that are being offered,” said driver Derek Cuffe, who has been with the company for 15 years.

“We started out looking for more [pay] and now they are cutting us back. I’ll definitely be voting against.”

He hoped that in such a situation, the dispute at the company would return to the Labour Court.

“We should never have come back to work,” said another driver, who did not want to be named. The recommendation “most definitely will be rejected. It’s not worth the paper it’s written on.”

Asked what would happen then, given that the company has said it is insolvent, he said it will be out of the workers hands. “They’ll probably close the gates.”

Another driver, who did not want to be named, said he was ten years with the company and earned €38,000 last year. “Morale is very low, everyone has their head down,” he said.

Bus Éireann is in competition with low-wage competitors who sometimes pay their workers under the table, he claimed. “They’re trying to bring us down to their level, rather than bring them up to our level.”

Another driver who did not wish to be named said the decades of improvements achieved by way of the unions on matters such as Sunday working, sick pay, and uniforms were being destroyed.

“It’s all knocked on the head now, gone overnight. We’re all very angry.” He said he did not want to return to work but the unions said they had to. He had heard that quite a few drivers had called in sick.

He wasn’t sure how he would vote, particularly because the company has said it is insolvent. The company might close and come back as a smaller outfit.

Another worker, who is both a driver and an inspector, said the mood was one of disappointment. “We were out on strike for three weeks and still we will lose money. It seems a bit pointless.”

It was hard to know if people would have the stomach to go back on strike, he said. Bus Éireann drivers would now be earning less than their colleagues in Dublin Bus and Irish Rail.

Every driver, he said, would have to examine how the recommendation would affect their income, and this calculation might be different for Dublin drivers than for those “down the country”.