As the Dublin Bus strike rolls on, we put Beggars to use on his extended walk (the poor divil…) home from UCD where he dropped by the picket lines at Donnybrook bus depot. He had a chat with Brendan Farrelly of the NBRU. Between all the beeping horns this is what he had to say.
The NBRU is back once again with strike action, what’s going on? An element of this is about a pay dispute, but would I be right in saying it’s partially down to a general feeling that Dublin Bus is being run down or not funded properly?
Yes, there is an issue with the subvention, the running of routes that don’t make money. Now we have a substantial amount of them which are to a degree a public service for people who depend on them. The subvention has deteriorated from 2008 to its present day down from €85 million to €58 million.
So, that’s a huge difference. What’s made up is that we haven’t had a pay increase in that time but the fares have gone up. Back in 2007 the highest fare was I think €1.90, the highest fare now is €3.30 so it’s the customer that’s also paying for that.
It’s not too long since there was a row over drivers listening to the radio while working, is there a fair bit of daily tension with management at the moment?
There’s always a bit of tension when it’s an industrial dispute. The radio issue was a ridiculous policy that they tried to bring in and common sense thank god was seen and they went back on that. Hopefully again common sense will come out here because the only way this is gonna be in any way resolved is by talking. We are ready to talk, we just don’t want to go into a meeting with a gun to our heads. We’re looking for common sense and, like I said, we are ready to talk.
It’s hard not to pick up on the tone of voice used by some presenters whenever union reps appear in the media. Especially transport ones. Do you detect a hint of bias in how the media deals the unions like yours? Which shows and stations are the worst offenders?
Look, I won’t lie to ya I’ve done many an interview and they’re edited, maybe this one won’t be, hopefully it won’t!
We’re here as bus workers, I’m a bus driver, we have maintenance staff, clerical staff, bus inspectors here. It’s five unions not just bus drivers. How the media portray us is one thing, but only yesterday I was working the 145 and I had the best part of 7, 8 people come up to me and say “Well done, best of luck, hope it goes well”.
You can hear it going by, the support here is huge. We’re just ordinary people. We’re not looking for anything outrageous, we’re looking for 5% a year for three years. We’re due this, we know we are.
Cost of living has gone up, it’s very hard to survive and that’s why we’re here today.
Let’s be honest. Dublin Bus leaves a lot to be desired. I’m not laying the blame for this with bus drivers, It’s more that public transport doesn’t really seem to be taken seriously here. Like, London gets a nightube and we get cuts to the Nitelink – you can barely get a train out of Heuston station past 9pm. What would it take to have a public service akin to places on the continent like Berlin or even across the pond in London?
As a union representative we constantly meet management at a local level, we certainly try to come up with ideas to make the service better. It would be faulty of any organisation particularly a transport organisation to rest on their laurels and not try think ahead.
You can always improve on what you’ve got, you know that’s good management planning. We’d like to think we can make better and we’re sure we can. Over the last few years it has gotten better with the apps and the real time information and newer busses. Can we always make it better? Of course we can.
Luas drivers came in for an awful lot of abuse online during their dispute, no doubt some of that scorn is going to be poured on bus drivers. Do you think ye are taken for granted? Is it not depressing to come across some of the vicious online attacks and descriptions of transport workers? I’m thinking of some the stuff that downplays these roles as lowly and unskilled.
I hear what you’re saying, you know as regards the Luas drivers and us it is two different things completely. The main thing being the Luas initially wanted 54%, we’re being more reasonable, it’s 5% a year for three years we’re looking for.
How a Luas drive does his or her day is completely different to how a bus driver, and there are other people here too, how a bus driver’s day is. We have to go through the city, we have to get from A to B in a certain time, we have to answer lots of questions, we have to deal with lost property, we have to help people who are sick.
We’ve done all this, people are sick on your bus or lost on your bus, you get tourists on you bus, there’s a lot to it. We’re more than capable and more than happy to do all this. We just want something that’s long overdue.
There’s an unfortunate lack of organic solidarity in Ireland at the best of times. If you had one chance to convince any of our readers who’ll be cursing and blinding you come these days of action, what would you say?
Well the first thing, and I should have apologised, I normally do to the travelling public ‘cause my own family use the bus, my own friends use the bus, my own kids can’t get to football matches because of the bus, and there friends.
Everyone here is the same. So we apologise, we do not want to be here, the last thing we want to do is this. Unfortunately, we’re forced into.
As regards solidarity, you’re probably picking it up on the mic, the cars going by, the support we’re getting. We have cars coming up with sixty, seventy bottles of water, tea, coffee, cakes. People giving us this, we don’t know these people.
The support is massive. Why? We’re just normal everyday people. We just want 5% a year for three years. We’ve asked for that and been forced out here. Further on solidarity, there’s five unions here, I’m twenty three years in this job and I don’t think I’ve seen five unions do that. So, hopefully people will see from a reasonable point of view, the logic of why we’re here.