The head of a trade union representing bus drivers has said comments made by the National Transport Authority (NTA) about high levels of driver absences showed “disdain” for staff.
Appearing before an Oireachtas committee earlier this week, NTA chief executive Anne Graham said the level of staff absences was unacceptable and affecting bus services. “Driver absences is at a level that even post-Covid, we don’t feel that is acceptable and it is impacting on the delivery of services,” she told the committee.
Dermot O’Leary, general secretary of the National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) criticised the comments in a letter to Ms Graham on Thursday.
Mr O’Leary said he wanted to place his “absolute disgust” at the “audacity” of the comments on the record, which he described as an attack on bus drivers.
‘Finger of blame’
The NTA had “dismissed any notion” that the authority should engage with representatives of transport workers to discuss issues affecting staff, he wrote.
“When it comes to taking responsibility for the service provided under the watch of the authority, the same body has no problem in pointing the finger of blame in the direction of bus drivers,” he said.
The trade union official noted that bus drivers “risked their health” working during the pandemic, while adding NTA staff “by and large” worked remotely from home.
“That is not a criticism of those same workers, it is merely an observation which does go some way towards demonstrating the aloofness which I believe was at the heart of your pathetic attack on bus drivers”, he wrote.
Mr O’Leary said drivers often had to deal with “chaotic traffic, poor road layout, pedestrians and cyclists” while navigating the roads.
“The anger that is clearly evident in this correspondence is based on years of being spoken down to,” he wrote. The NBRU general secretary said he was “unapologetic” for his strongly-worded response to what he described as a “race to the bottom style attack on bus workers”.