The Bus Eireann fleet was back in full flight over the Easter weekend and while passengers at Cavan Town bus station expressed delight at the return of services, the bus workers were giving deep consideration to the complicated Labour Court document.
While many drivers did not want to go on the record in relation to which way they were likely to vote in the ballot when The Anglo-Celt dropped by on Saturday evening, there were deep concerns over loss in wages. Many said they will listen to their union reps, and their explanations of the contents of the document before making up their minds. Other drivers want to see a resolution and provide the services the people deserve.
One driver, Eamonn Dowd from Laragh said at this time it is his intention to vote against the document and he can’t see himself changing his mind. A loss of €115 in wages over a two week period, in his case, is a real issue for him.
The Labour Court document recommends that staffing numbers will be reduced through “natural attrition” and voluntary severance to achieve the optimal numbers identified. If the recommendations are accepted a minimum of 120 drivers will exit the company on a voluntary severance basis over 12 months, and there will also be 22 job cuts among executive grades.
A new composite rate of pay will apply for every hour worked by drivers up to a maximum of 48 hours. The rates proposed are €17.37 for the first year of service, €18.28 for the second year of service, €19.20 for the third year and €20.11 for year four.
Bus Éireann said it would give due consideration to the Labour Court recommendations. Arrangements for meetings of union members and a ballot will be announced in the coming days.
Passengers told this paper that they were “delighted” the buses were running again. Carmel McQuillan from Virginia said she was very glad to have the buses back. “I travel a lot on the buses to Dublin,” she said.
Bus Eireann driver Eamonn Dowd who has been driving for 18 years told The Anglo-Celt that he had read the Labour Court document and it contains many issues that “we will need the Unions to explain to us”.
“We were on the line for 22 days and we were there to stop any pay cuts. This document has not done that. We have lost our Sunday allowance, our Bank Holiday allowance, our shift or rota have been lost, our overtime rates have been lost – they have all been taken off us,” explained a concerned Eamonn Dowd.
“Having said that, there are increases in pay,” he said, explaining the rising hourly rate from year 1-4. “On the face of it, the normal, man or woman out there reading that – they will say €20.11 is massive money – it is not," said Mr Dowd, who went on to explain his own position. “If I were to work a week with Sunday and a shift, I would be down €47 on what they are offering me now – that is without overtime. Then if I was to work a Sunday with my rota pay, I would be down €68 – these figures are based on a 39 hour week, without any overtime," he said.
“So, over that two week period I would be down €115. The weeks I would be working without a Sunday, I would be up money, a little, not a lot.
“The roster I work, I work five Sundays out of eight, so I would be losing money for the five weeks out of the eight – that is not taking our overtime into consideration.
“Our overtime at the moment is paid at time and a half – that time and a half will be gone – you will be on the flat rate, if you run into overtime.”
He explained that the only drivers who won’t lose out on this are those who work Monday to Friday, and observes “there would be very few of them”. Mr Dowd also said that part-time drivers are mentioned in the document from the Labour Court, and to his mind that is “zero hours contracts”. “These part-time drivers would be taking work from the regular drivers and they would be on whatever hours the company wanted,” he contended, adding that the document “as far as I can see” remains silent on whether the increases are pension linked. He said the union officials are going to visit the depots to explain the proposed changes in the document.
“The general feeling from anybody I have talked to - it is not going to be accepted, but that will only become known with the result of the ballot.”
Asked what way he would be inclined to vote at this time, having read the document, Eamonn Dowd said “I will be voting against it, without a doubt”. Asked if he could be persuaded to change his mind, Eamonn Dowd explained: “I will be quite prepared to listen to what our unions have to say to us and explain some of the details that I don’t fully understand. But I could not see me changing my mind. The pay issue is an issue for me – there was to be no loss of earnings, that is what the union was going on all along, but there is loss of earnings. Everyone is suffering loss of earnings.”
For more on this story have a look in this week's Anglo Celt