Dublin Bus sacks union representative


The sacking of Eugene McDonagh by Dublin Bus management and his simultaneous suspension by the National Bus & Rail Union from its national executive shows the true face of ‘social partnership’.  Eugene has been a bus driver for 21 years and has an unblemished work record. The bosses and the senior union bureaucracy have come together to attack effective trade unionism in Harristown garage. 

It’s not just about one man, shop steward facilities in Harristown have also been taken away from Rory Colman, Owen McCormack and Colm Brady.  This means these elected representatives cannot properly carry out their union function.

A public meeting in the UNITE union hall before Easter heard how this victimisation has its roots in last year’s unofficial strike at Harristown. 

Dublin Bus introduced a plan to cut wage costs and reduce services across the city.  It didn’t go down well but after three ballots bus drivers finally accepted.  However one effect was that drivers’ rosters were changed at short notice.  In all other bus garages management consulted with drivers but at Harristown this didn’t happen.

A dispute broke out over the changes to the route 128.  Drivers asked for a few days delay to allow the promised consultation.  Management refused and suspended a driver who refused to take out his bus.

Other drivers walked out, and those in other garages joined the stoppage in solidarity. 

The dispute ended when Eugene and his SIPTU colleagues (SIPTU is the other union on the buses) agreed a verbal settlement with local management, which included a promise that no driver would be disciplined for the strike.  A few weeks later management broke their word and threatened to sack and sue 39 drivers. 

They then began calling in drivers for four-hour interviews where they were told they would be sacked unless they named shop stewards as the instigators of the strike.  Far from defending their member, the NBRU collaborated by suspending Eugene from his elected place on its national executive.  They were sending a signal to management that the union would do nothing.

The public meeting was addressed by Jimmy Kelly (UNITE’s Irish regional secretary), Denis Keane (former President of the Civil Public & Services Union) and Christy McGinn from ASTI.  Also expressing their support were John McCamley, the President of SIPTU’s bus branch and John Kidd, the SIPTU convenor in Dublin Fire Brigade.

There has been a protest, by NBRU members, outside the union head office and one is planned for Dublin Bus head office. 

The NBRU was founded by a group of drivers in Clontarf garage who wanted a more militant union and for many years the NBRU was just that.  Today it is controlled by a conservative bureaucracy who seem to value a quiet life more than they value the job of one of their own reps.  In a letter to members they hide behind the law, “It is illegal under the 1990 Industrial Relations Act to take Industrial Action on behalf of one employee until all procedures are exhausted”.
 If that was their only reason for doing nothing, why did they give the bosses the green light by removing Eugene from the national executive?

Eugene can be contacted at emcdonagh@oceanfree.com