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Dublin: 18 °C Sunday 12 July, 2020
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Concerns remain about safety of Bus Eireann drivers as they demand screens on all buses

The company said it is rolling out face visors to drivers this week as an interim measure.

Image: Dermot O'Leary

THERE ARE CONTINUING concerns about safety during the Covid-19 outbreak among Bus Eireann drivers, who have for weeks been requesting protective screens across the entire fleet. 

TD Bríd Smith said she has spoken to a number of drivers who are “scared about what’s going on”. 

Smith said drivers she spoke to are worried by reports from the UK about the deaths of bus drivers who were diagnosed with the disease.

Eighteen London transport staff, including 12 bus workers, have died after contracting Covid-19.

“Obviously they understand that it’s a different state of play on the transportation system in London, but nonetheless they’re very aware that drivers in general are more at risk and that buses can be dangerous places to be right now,” she told TheJournal.ie.

Smith said some drivers were considering unofficial strike action if the issue is not resolved. 

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, general secretary of the National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) Dermot O’Leary said there are no plans for union-sanctioned industrial action this week. 

“The NBRU speaks on behalf of the vast majority of Bus Eireann drivers and they are proud to be central to the national effort to combat this virus,” he said.

However he said “concerns remain” in relation to the lack of screens on buses to protect drivers.

He said the union had been assured that an interim solution – the provision of face visors – is being rolled out this week and that the company is procuring protective screens for the fleet.

Before the outbreak, O’Leary said the NBRU had long been calling for the installation of screens on all vehicles in the Bus Eireann fleet as a protective measure for drivers from anti-social behaviour. 

O’Leary also acknowledged that some drivers are uncomfortable taking cash from customers and said the union would support any driver who declined to do so. 

Bríd Smith suggested that for the duration of this crisis, all public transportation should be free anyway, to avoid interaction between passengers and drivers and as a gesture of goodwill to essential workers.

“It would be a simple thing, public transport now being used mostly by workers going to shops, care homes, hospitals – essential services – why shouldn’t they have free travel during this time? It wouldn’t be an impossible leap of imagination for the State,” she said. 

In a statement Bus Eireann said following dialogue with trade unions it has commenced issuing face visors to drivers, while it continues “to explore options for protective screens in drivers’ cab area for those vehicles that don’t already have them”. 

The company said it has already introduced “a significantly enhanced cleaning regime” on board its vehicles and in bus stations.

“We have also ensured physical distancing is observed by restricting seating capacity on our vehicles while also introducing revised queueing in bus stations around the country.

“The purchase of tickets through ticket vending machines, online or by a Leap Card is promoted. Supplies of hand sanitising gels and wipes continue to be distributed to all employees.”

Bus Eireann said it is continuing to work with its employees and trade unions to address any concerns they may have.  

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