Coronavirus: Bus and train drivers will no longer accept cash fares, says union

NBRU says talks with transport companies under way to see if services can continue

The NBRU has demanded action to protect members. File photograph: Cyril Byrne

The NBRU has demanded action to protect members. File photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

The National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) has said its members in Irish Rail, Bus Éireann and Dublin Bus will no longer accept cash from passengers over fears arising from the spread of the coronavirus.

The NBRU said on Monday frontline transport personnel shared the same fears and concerns about Covid -19 virus as many other public service personnel but they wanted to play their part in ensuring that those who had to get to work, particularly in the health sector , could reach their destinations.

However, the union said transport workers could only provide this service if given the tools to operate during the current crisis.

“They cannot or will not operate the service without the recommended protection measures being put in place.”

The trade union Siptu said in the absence of sanitisers for drivers, it would also advise transport staff not to handle cash.

The union said it would write to the Department of Transport and the National Transport Authority seeking to have bus and rail personnel designated as essential workers during the current crisis to facilitate the companies securing supplies of hand sanitisers.

The NBRU said it had been “calling for social distancing to be immediately implemented for the last week”.

“We have demanded that the companies they work for provide hand sanitisers and alternatives to purchasing tickets will have to be put in place. Our members will not handle cash”, the union said.

NBRU general secretary Dermot O’Leary said the union had written to the National Transport Authority last week seeking that staff representatives be given a seat at the “decision-making table” but that the request had been treated with distain.

The NBRU said it and other unions met with the three State-owned transport companies on Monday afternoon “to discuss if public transport can continue to operate”.

On Sunday Bus Éireann told trade unions that it would be meeting with the National Transport Authority to “work with them to drive the change away from cash and promote the safety of our drivers”.

The company said it had made strong efforts to secure hand sanitisers for bus drivers who the union maintained could not readily in many cases access facilities to wash their hands regularly.

The company said it was “exhausting every option and doing so persistently to get our drivers a personal supply”

“ Due to the extraordinary demand in the community and prioritisation of the health care sector this is proving very challenging but we continue to work hard on this. About 40 per cent of our fleet have screens (to separate drivers from passengers) - those providing city/town service - and we want to provide a supply Dublin Bus said its staff had not handled cash on the bulk of its services for many years.

On Monday night, following the meeting with the unions, the CIE group of companies - Iarnród Éireann, Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann-said: “We are grateful for the commitment of our workforce across the group and our trade unions in the public service ethos of the response to date, and on an ongoing basis to delivering our essential services.

“We will ensure that in so doing the health and well-being of our customers and staff are central to all we do, in line with the expert advice from the country’s healthcare professionals.”