Bus Éireann ordered to pay driver €10,200 over constructive dismissal

Driver given a choice by a boss to retire or be fired after incident with elderly passenger

 Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

 

A long-serving Bus Éireann bus driver said he has been left “deeply traumatised” over the manner of his constructive dismissal by the national bus firm.

Dan Fitzpatrick was today speaking after the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) found he was constructively dismissed by Bus Éireann and the bus firm has been ordered to pay him €10,200 in compensation

Cork native Mr Fitzpatrick worked for 16 years in the Galway area for Bus Éireann before he was given a choice by a boss to retire or be fired as a result of an incident with an elderly passenger in November 2017.

Mr Fitzpatrick told the WRC that he was presented with a “Hobson’s choice” by his employer as he was told that if he didn’t voluntarily retire, he would be fired and he would lose his €10,000 to €15,000 retirement gratuity.

Mr Fitzpatrick retired on November 27th, 2017 after what he described to the WRC as “a flawed and unfair disciplinary investigation” by Bus Éireann.

In his findings, WRC adjudication officer, Ray Flaherty said Mr Fitzpatrick had no option but to retire when he was told failure to do so would result in him losing his retirement gratuity.

Mr Flaherty said that on a number of levels, the employer did not provide Mr Fitzpatrick with fair procedure and left him with no alternative but to retire.

Mr Fitzpatrick was forced to retire only a few months short of his 66th birthday when he was due to retire.

Mr Fitzpatrick said the manner of his dismissal by Bus Eireann “has wrecked my retirement”. He added, “I feel vindicated by the WRC ruling because I did nothing wrong.”

Mr Fitzpatrick was forced to retire after Bus Éireann brought a charge of gross misconduct concerning an incident with a passenger on November 8th, 2017.

In the incident, Mr Fitzpatrick said he physically escorted an elderly passenger off a city route bus service after a heated exchange between the two and repeated requests from Mr Fitzpatrick for the man to leave the bus.

Mr Fitzpatrick said that as he ushered the man out of the bus, the man stooped directly downwards onto one knee.

Mr Fitzpatrick said that once the gentleman was clear from the bus he got back into his driver’s seat and drove away.

The day after the incident, Mr Fitzpatrick was called to his boss’s office where he was presented with three CCTV tapes of what occurred and was immediately suspended pending a disciplinary hearing.

In his findings, Mr Flaherty said that comments made to Mr Fitzpatrick by a boss that “there is no excuse for this behaviour” and “you will never work in the company again” supported Mr Fitzpatrick’s contention that fair process was not followed.

Bus Éireann did not send a representative to the WRC oral hearing and on Thursday a spokeswoman said: “Bus Éireann do not comment on individual cases and we have no further comment”.