Striking Dublin Bus drivers were in high spirits at Ringsend Garage on Friday as they enjoyed banter with passing customers and complimentary supplies from nearby cafés.
Those manning the pickets lines since early morning could count on sandwiches and hot drinks from the No Bucks mobile café which usually serves the city’s homeless community, but workers were nonetheless feeling the pain during a second day without pay.
“Nobody wants to be on the picket line. All the workers here have got mortgages, car loans, bills to pay. They’re not being paid being down here,” said National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) shop steward Thomas O’Connor, who is also a driver on the number 1 route.
“We apologise to the travelling public, we don’t want to discommode them but we have nothing left, we have to do this,” added Mr O’Connor, ahead of a further four days of industrial action scheduled for later this month.
He has been outside the garage since 4am for the past two days, but his colleague Matt O'Donovan admits he was somewhat taken aback by the scale of the action announced by the NBRU and Siptu in the dispute over pay claims of 15 per cent, almost twice what the company has offered.
“I was taken aback… That’s two days’ money that we now have to budget without. We’ve got people here ringing their banks and trying to park their mortgage repayments temporarily, and other bills,” he said.
Mr O’Donovan has worked as what is known as a ‘spare’ driver for the last decade, a job that comes with irregular shift patterns and changing routes.
“Everything that’s in this job is difficult enough. We don’t know what we’ll get on a daily basis, we find out about 14 hours beforehand. On an early week I could start at 5am and the next day I could start in the afternoon. Some of the days can be up to 13 hours long. It’s incredibly taxing,” he said.
Shouting across to a driver she recognises, regular number 1 user Tina Dodds says she does not feel too inconvenienced by the strike.
“They’re not being paid enough and it’s not fair when you see someone else being paid better than you,” she remarked.
Neither does 89 year-old Michael Cummins, as he makes his way from Irishtown towards the GPO on O'Connell Street.
‘Entitled to it’
"They're due a rise, they do the same job as the Luas therefore they're entitled to it," he told The Irish Times.
“They [Dublin Bus] are saying how much they’re going to lose by the strike. Why not use their head and say ‘we still make a profit by giving them what they want’, even if it’s a matter of raising the bus fare by two or three cent, because they will eventually do it,” he added.
Another passerby also expressed sympathy for the drivers, but feels the constant comparisons being drawn between the jobs of Luas and bus drivers is unfair.
“I don’t think people should comment on things like that, they’re not in their shoes. I don’t think it’s fair for people to make an assumption about Luas drivers because you don’t know what it’s like unless you’re one of them,” he said.