CIÉ transport workers seek extra 10 days of leave over pandemic

Health staff already pressing Government for Covid-19 ‘compensation’

Transport workers in the State-owned CIÉ group of companies are seeking 10 additional days of annual leave next year in recognition of their contribution during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) said it was asking the Government to provide additional funding to meet the cost of providing additional "compensatory" time off for staff in Iarnród Éireann, Bus Éireann, Dublin Bus in the year starting January 2022.

In a letter to the CIÉ group on Monday setting out its formal claim – and copied to the Taoiseach and other Ministers – the NBRU said: “The unique circumstances of this pandemic and the continuous service provision by transport workers requires to be recognised by their employer and supported by the relevant Government departments.

“Bus drivers, frontline customer-service personnel onboard trains, bus/train station staff, train drivers have all been under significant strain throughout the pandemic. Despite concerns for their own health and safety, they have continued to contribute to the national effort in literally keeping the wheels of the economy turning.

“Those same workers have been ably assisted by colleagues such as clerical, maintenance, supervisory, etc. No bus, no train can operate without several layers of support staff.”

Health service

The transport workers are the second group formally to seek some form of compensation from the Government for working during the pandemic.

The Irish Times reported last week that virtually all groups of staff in the health service were now seeking some form of “compensation” from the Government for their contribution to dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

Nurses said they had lodged a claim with the health service for 10 days of additional leave last November.

However, the broader group of trade union representing virtually all grades of staff across the health system has lodged a separate claim for “special recognition” of healthcare workers with regard to their response to the virus.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin told the Dáil last week that the Government would "respond to and recognise the extraordinary efforts that frontline healthcare workers have made".

In its letter to the CIÉ group, the NBRU said staff at the State-owned transport companies had been “unable to take leave in a manner that such leave would normally be enjoyed”.

It said the entitlement to annual leave had been used early in the pandemic “as a tool or vehicle to reduce pressure on payroll” at a time when the companies had been unsure of how, or if, the State would support public transport during the pandemic.

“This resulted in annual leave (at least 10-days) being ‘burnt-off’ to facilitate the alteration of rosters throughout 2020.”

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent