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Dublin: 13 °C Tuesday 15 October, 2019

'I've no other choices in life. It's all I know how to do': Bus Éireann staff fear the worst

Workers are trying to keep their spirits up but the outlook is bleak for Bus Éireann.

Bus Éireann workers Gerry Hudson and Eamon McGann
Bus Éireann workers Gerry Hudson and Eamon McGann

STAFF AT BUS Éireann began their all out strike today and workers fear that the company could close forever unless the dispute is resolved soon.

Picket lines were set up across depots nationwide with many drivers and engineers left frustrated that management implemented a number of changes to their working conditions without union approval.

Staff at the Broadstone depot in Dublin city were in high spirits but the overwhelming feeling was that they’d rather be working.

Management at Bus Éireann say that the company needs to implement severe cuts if it’s to survive as a company – that includes pay cuts, overtime cuts and changes to bus routes.

Unions representing workers at Bus Éireann aren’t happy with the measures proposed by management to save the company. Although they accept that ‘efficiency changes’ must be made, they say that the proposed changes disproportionately affect drivers.

After months of negotiations, including a bout at the Workplace Relations Commission, efforts at finding a resolution between the two sides collapsed – leading to management implementing their plan without the unions’ backing, and resulting in an indefinite nationwide strike by the unions.

Gerry Hudson and Eamon McGann have 48 years experience at the company between them. They are of the opinion that workers were forced into this position, citing that they have not received an increase in pay in nine years. Like many workers, they are struggling to make ends meet and have children to feed.

20170324_094234 Workers at the Broadstone Depot in Dublin.

Hudson said: “I don’t want to be out here. I want to be driving the bus. This seems to be an attack on trade unions. It’s a very sad day. If the company was to go, I’d have to go on social welfare.

Most of us at this stage would be in similar situations. I’ve no other choices in life. It’s all I know how to do. At the end of the day, you can’t work for nothing.

The workers are aware that there are other state bodies which are suffering currently but they believe the Bus Éireann service provides a community service and they fear this could be wiped out if the company was to go under.

‘Rural Ireland is in trouble’

McGann added: “There are a lot of older people who would live in rural parts of the country who rely on the service. It keeps them active. It allows them to be able to be social. But the private firms won’t touch these routes because there is no money to be made from them. Rural Ireland is in trouble if Bus Éireann goes.”

The workers are “in it for the long haul”, according to McGann, who says he can’t see the dispute being resolved soon. He believes that the workers are clinging to what they have.

“Nobody wants to be out on a strike but we were left with no choice. We were pushed against the wall. It’s a race to the bottom. The company is in trouble. We know that.We have to fight for each other. It could be a case that Bus Éireann goes. That’s becoming more likely every day that goes by. That would be a very sad day. We want to work but we also have to be able to live.”

The state-owned transport company is facing financial difficulty, with losses last year reaching almost €10 million. It says changes to employees’ contracts are needed in order to keep the company viable. These include job losses, changes to bus routes, cuts in overtime and a range of other measures.

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