TRAVEL chaos is set to continue this weekend in Cork as Bus Éireann workers continue to strike with the National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) telling the Evening Echo that drivers will not return to work until an acceptable resolution is found.
NBRU President and Cork bus driver John Moloney echoed the sentiments of SIPTU's Willie Noone when he said the drivers would strike as long as needed.
“We won't be going back, we won't be moving from this dispute until there's an agreed resolution,” he said.
Drivers took the decision to strike late on Thursday after a document was circulated by Bus Éireann bosses outlining cost cutting measures and pay cuts.
Mr Moloney said it is not the intent of drivers to inconvenience commuters but it is an unfortunate consequence of the strike.
“The commuters travelling are our bread and butter. We're at this a long time and we get people who travel regularly on our routes and we get to know them and they become friends with some of the drivers and nobody wants to discommode them,” he said.
“We see it as our function to transport the people of Ireland from wherever they want to go. We're suffering as well. It's not something that is done by choice, ultimately it was the opposite. We didn't have any choice.
“I know from the public's perspective it was very sudden because they didn't get the notice that we'd like them to get,” he added.
NBRU member and Cork bus driver Tom Foley said many of his colleagues were concerned about paying bills if pay cuts are not retracted.
“We can't afford to take a 30% cut in our wages. It's excessive, unfair and unjust. We have to fight for our rights,” he said.
“We even had some of our own drivers turn up and not know the strike was on. This happened so suddenly yesterday, it was beyond our control. If anyone saw the document that we were given on Wednesday evening, you'd be frightened by it. It's depressing people and putting fierce pressure on them.
“You couldn't live on the wages they are expecting people to take. You have to consider that drivers have all different shifts that are completely unsociable hours. Your family life suffers a lot from this job, it takes up a lot of your time... You give up a lot to be a bus driver.
“The lads are apprehensive because the documents that have come out are not good and they are not willing to negotiate. Maybe it's because the people who are running the company now have no experience of running a bus company, we don't know, because they don't talk to us anymore," he added.
While Parnell Place bus station was almost deserted, accept for the picketing bus drivers, a steady stream of commuters were still turning up, unaware of the strike.
Nevin Wiegest from Germany and her friend, who are studying in UCC this semester, were supposed to be travelling to Kilkenny on their weekend off. They had a hotel booked and were not aware of the strike until they arrived at Parnell Place bus station.
“It is our free weekend and we were wanting to see something of the country. It's unfortunate. It was the first trip out of Cork that we had planned. It's very disappointing as it was the very day we had something planned.
Pavel from the Czech Republic had decided to go to Youghal this morning for a day at the seaside due to the good weather.
“It's disappointing but I guess the workers have to get their rights. It's no good for us but it can be understood," he said.
Irish soccer fans travelling to the game at the Aviva Stadium were placated by bus company Air Coach laying on extra buses to Dublin.
The scene was a little less chaotic at Kent Station with Irish Rail resuming Cork services at 11am yesterday. Rail operators had refused to cross the picket line in solidarity with their Bus Éireann colleagues. Services to Midleton, Cobh, Little Islane and Mallow were initially disrupted.
Bus Éireann issued a statement that said: “Industrial action will cause major inconvenience to our customers and exacerbate the perilous financial situation at the company.”
Cork North Central Worker's Party Cllr Ted Tynan urged the public to boycott any breaks in the strike by private bus operators.