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Dublin Bus sacks bus driver who declared 10 buses defective in two days over collapsed driver's seat cushions

Asked by an Inspector to point out a defect on the seat the driver allegedly pointed to a crease on the left side of the seat cloth.
Mar 23rd 2020, 2:37 PM 87,039 0

DUBLIN BUS SACKED a long serving bus driver after he declared 10 buses defective over a two day period because of ‘collapsed cushions’ for his driver’s seat.

All of the buses were subsequently examined by Dublin Bus engineers and mechanics could find nothing wrong with the seats.

In one of the buses ‘defected’ by the driver on 23 January 2019, it had been fitted with a new seat just two days previously.

When asked by an Inspector to point out the defect on the seat the driver allegedly pointed to a crease on the left side of the seat cloth.

Some of the buses ‘defected’ by the bus driver were in instances where the driver had taken over from colleagues who had driven them without complaint.

The driver was sacked by Dublin Bus for gross misconduct after it found that the complaints about the seats were not genuine complaints but instead “a deliberate disruption” of Dublin Bus services by the driver. 

The driver worked for Dublin Bus from September 2001 until his dismissal on 31 May last.

‘Unfair dismissal’ 

The driver sued for unfair dismissal at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) and WRC Adjudication Officer, Jim Dolan has concluded that the complaint of unfair dismissal “is not well-founded”.

Mr Dolan found that on the balance of probabilities that the seats in question were not defective and the decision to dismiss was proportionate.

In an outline of the events, the driver commenced duty on 21 January 2019 at 15.48 and took over a bus that had been driven by a colleague.

The bus was full of passengers but the driver called Central Control to say that the bus was defective because he claimed the driver’s seat cushion had collapsed.

A replacement bus arrived at 16.15. However, the driver contacted Central Control after a short period to advise that this bus was also defective for the same reason.

Another replacement bus was brought to Parnell Square West and the driver reported this bus as also being defective as the driver’s seat cushion had collapsed.

The driver was brought back to the bus depot in the same bus driven by an inspector.

An inspector allocated the driver a fourth bus – the driver tested the bus by driving it but came back to the Bus Depot to say that the seat cushion had collapsed. 

The driver was then assigned a fifth bus – AV424. He tested the bus and returned to say that it had a defective seat.

Dublin Bus then assigned a sixth bus to the driver – GT52 – and the driver tested the bus, and returned the bus to report a “collapsed cushion.

The bus company then assigned a seventh bus to the driver and once again, after testing this bus, the driver returned to the depot stating that the seat cushion had collapsed. 

Two days later, the driver reported for duty at Parnell Square West and once again contacted Central Control to report that the bus was defective because of the driver’s seat – the eighth bus to be declared defective.

The driver told Central Control that he defected the same bus on 21 January and in response, Central Control that they had changed the seat on the bus.

The Chief Inspector at Dublin Bus approached the driver and the driver explained that he had disc problems in his back.

The driver was driven as a passenger back to the bus depot and was allocated a ninth bus – AX635 and he again reported that the bus was defective because of the seat.

The driver was then allocated a 10th bus – VG48 and it was tested by the driver who returned the bus stating that the seat cushion was collapsed and that a panel was loose.

The driver was called into the inspector’s office and was told that he would not be allocated anymore buses.

Dublin Bus told the WRC hearing that it is conscious that bus seats have been a problem in the past and have spent a large amount of time and money on getting them right, this includes colleagues of the driver having input into the type of seats required.

The driver told the WRC that he has a back-disc issue, which could be compounded if the bus driver seat is not correctly fitted.

The driver argued in a bid to ensure his workstation was conducive to his personal needs he reported the defects.

It was argued on behalf of the driver at the WRC that Dublin Bus did not act in a reasonable manner and that the sanction of dismissal was disproportionate. 

The driver was seeking reinstatement to his position. 

It was submitted on behalf of the driver that he was acting for the good of all concerned in reporting defects as detected by him.

It was further submitted on behalf of the driver that the driver did his duty and followed company policy. 

It was argued that the records will show he was a vigilant driver and took health and safety as important for him, his colleagues and most importantly the public. 

The WRC hearing was told that the man’s experience as a union representative compelled him to speak up on behalf of his co-workers and himself.

The driver had a had a similar issue before Christmas 2018 which resulted in his dismissal. However, he appealed internally and this was reduced to a Final Written Warning.

The driver stated that he highlighted faults as he saw them and the complaints were genuine. 

The WRC was told that the driver was not refusing to do his duty on 21 January 2019 and 23 January 2019 as it was his duty to report faults.

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Gordon Deegan

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