‘We can’t work for nothing. I don’t want to be on strike’
Bus Éireann strike enters its second day with no talks planned over the weekend
“No pedestrian access, buses manoeuvring. No pedestrian access buses manoeuvring,” droned a monotone recording over the Tannoy system at Bus Éireann’s headquarters in the shadow of Liberty Hall on Saturday afternoon despite the fact that there were no buses manoeuvring and no pedestrians seeking to access the Busarus concourse.
As the nationwide strike entered its second day the staff on the picket line were acutely aware of how precarious their position was yet fiercely determined to fight what they believe to be management’s heavy-handed attempts to slash their wages.
“We want an end to the strike, we really do,” said Danny Doohan, a driver from Naas. “I don’t see any real prospect of that happening soon though,” he added. “I honestly can’t see an end. We are worried about what might happen as a result of the strike, of course we are, but we can’t work for nothing. I don’t want to be out here on strike. I want to be working. We all want to be working.
With no talks planned over the weekend, the strike, which disrupted the travel plans of over 100,000 people on Friday, will continue until Monday at the earliest and could escalate significantly in the days ahead and impact on Dublin Bus services as well as more train services.
It centres around how the financial difficulties in Bus Éireann should be addressed. Management at the company argue that its financial position is critical - it lost over € 9 million in 2016 - and claim the company will be facing insolvency within a couple of months unless remedial action is taken.
Bus Éireann told staff last Wednesday that it would be unilaterally implementing nearly 50 cost-saving efficiency measures and work practice changes. Unions objected to any survival plan being imposed without agreement and contend that even though the company argues that core pay will not be affected, the measures - including restricted access to overtime - will see earnings fall by up to € 10,000.
“We are doing our best to keep our spirits up,” said Elaine Moore O’Donohoe who works in the company’s headquarters in a customer service role. “I think many people s us knew this was going to come to a head before there would be a resolution.”
She was gloomy as to the prospects of a solution being found in the short term. “I’m not sure when it will be resolved. It will be next week at the earliest and I would be afraid there could be chaos across the country on Monday. I myself rely on the bus to get to work from Clane and there are a lot of people out there like me.”
She said she recognised that the company was in a “difficult position” but stressed that dialogue and negotiation were the way forward.
“We have seen nothing but good will from the public. They know we are not looking for a pay rise and I think that makes a difference.”
As she speaks a man from Romania approached her and thrust his phone into her hand.
“Can you speak to my girlfriend,” he said by way of introduction.
The customer service side of the striker kicked in immediately. She listened to what the woman said and then explained how her boyfriend would find the bus that would take him to the ferry and then on to Manchester and on to Glasgow before returning the phone to its owner who wandered off in the direction of a private service.
“That bus normally leaves from outside the station but it’s leaving further up the road now because I of the strike. Of course I would help her, why wouldn’t I? I couldn’t just leave them stranded, how could I?”