Claims by Minister Regina Doherty that bus disruptions for Meath commuters have been caused by an unofficial dispute among drivers have been slammed by the unions representing drivers at Bus Eireann.
Yesterday Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection and Meath East TD Regina Doherty said she was writing to the general secretaries of the National Bus and Railworkers Union (NBRU)and SIPTU trade unions asking them to help put an end to "an unofficial dispute that has disrupted the bus journeys of thousands of Co Meath commuters".
She called on them to engage in discussions “to ensure that a stop can be put to the continued upset and upheaval in the day to day lives of many thousands of passengers at the earliest possible opportunity”.
However, both unions have rubbished claims that there is an unofficial dispute going on.
Dermot O'Leary, General Secretary of the NBRU said: "Ms Doherty''s presumption in relation to unofficial industrial action is factually incorrect. There is no action, unofficial or otherwise. The fact is that Bus Eireann have, in attempting to shoehorn extra services into the Kells/Navan/Cavan corridor before agreeing the rosters required to operate within the recent Labour Court Recommendation, (following the three week official dispute at Bus Eireann) which provides for Duty Optimisation to free up extra driver resources. The NBRU representatives are working tirelessly along with SIPTU colleagues, to produce rosters which will, if agreed, allow for more resources to be freed up for the new services into Meath and Cavan."
Meanwhile, Greg Ennis of SIPTU said Minister Doherty is "clearly ill-advised" to suggest that there is unofficial bus disruption to Bus Eireann services as "this is cleary not the case".
"SIPTU, alongside its sister trade unions in Bus Eireann, has been on the record prior to and since the dispute earlier this year, advising that the rosters and bus schedules proposed by Bus Eireann management were unworkable and not fit for purpose.
"In some cases, these schedules were placing drivers and the travelling public at risk due to the potential for drivers to work through the night on shifts approaching 13 hours duration. The issue of giving short breaks to drivers in remote locations, which does not allow drivers the chance to either avail of a toilet break, or indeed take a rest period in line with legal requirements, had also been highlighted. Management clearly knew that drivers would have to abide by driving regulations and prior to imposing these new schedules, they were certainly aware of absenteeism levels”.
“Bus Eireann management need to account for their own incompetence and lack of foresight on these matters and Government politicians including Ms Doherty needs to account for the cut in funding to Bus Eireann and indeed the wider CIE Group whose subvention was cut by 41 per cent between 2009 and 2015.
"Blaming workers for the funding choices taken by this Fine Gael Government is despicable and alleging that unofficial bus disruption is being orchestrated by Bus Eireann drivers, many of whom live in Co Meath and who have been loyal to their employer and dedicated to the travelling public for many years, is reprehensible and unbecoming of a serving Minister”.