29 November 2007 Edition
Nuacht na nOibrithe BY STEPHANIE LORD
School bus drivers’ move for equality
LOW-PAID school bus drivers belonging to SIPTU have served strike notice on Bus Éireann in a bid for improved pay and working conditions. Two hundred and twenty bus drivers will take part in the first stoppage this Friday if talks at the Labour Relations Commission are not successful.
The bus drivers have no pension entitlements, sick pay or other benefits and earn €11.66 per hour. According to the union, school cleaners earn around €14 per hour while school caretakers get 30 cent more than that. Bus Éireann itself runs a pay-scale from €13.15 to €15.23 per hour for general bus drivers.
Michael Halpenny, SIPTU National Industrial Secretary, says that current rates in no way reflect the professionalism and demands of the job.
“Unlike other workers employed in the education and public transport sectors,” he said, “school bus drivers have no overtime, pensions or a sick pay scheme.”
The SIPTU rep said that employment conditions are so poor that it proved impossible to recruit new drivers recently in Limerick and Galway when vacancies arose.
“These drivers are part-time and wages are so low that even if they were allowed to work a 39-hour week many of them would be entitled to Family Income Supplement to support their families.”
Halpenny said that these drivers are “committed professionals” but he accused Bus Éireann and the Department of Education of using their part-time status to deny them the sort of pay and standard benefits that their full-time colleagues enjoy.
In a stinging sideswipe at the huge pay rises that government ministers pocketed in the past couple of weeks, Halpenny added:
“It says a lot about our social priorities that senior politicians recently received pay awards worth twice as much as many school drivers earn, yet these men and women are responsible for the safe delivery of the nation’s most valuable asset, our children, to homes and schools each day.”
US multinationals block trade unions
A SURVEY conducted by the University of Limerick has found that around half of all US multinationals that had already-established operations with trade union recognition do not recognise any union at new sites developed over the past five years.
An example of this practice in action is Coca-Cola. It closed its unionised plant in Drogheda, with 256 job losses, and production moved to an existing non-union plant in Ballina.
Trade union representatives have called this type of practice “corporate greed at its worst”.