Journalist rescues Chicago family left stranded in Limerick by Bus Éireann strike

There were no trains or Bus Éireann buses operating out of Limerick, causing chaos for commuters.

Journalist rescues Chicago family left stranded in Limerick by Bus Éireann strike

By David Raleigh

There were no trains or Bus Éireann buses operating out of Limerick, causing chaos for commuters.

Around 70 bus and rail workers, fighting proposed pay cuts, picketed outside the bus and rail depot at Colbert Station.

One of the bus workers standing on the picket line was Pat Hanrahan, a driver of 35 years with CIE/Bus Eireann.

"When the gardaí went on strike for a few hours (the government) gave them a big pile of money, but they are kicking us ordinary bus workers in the teeth on the ground," Mr Hanrahan said.

"They are treating us like dirt, so we will not put up and tolerate this."

"We will fight to the end and we will stay out here for as long as it takes to protect what we have got."

The picket line will remain at Colbert Station until 7pm, and resuming again at 4.30am tomorrow.

Tony O'Brien, NBRU national executive member, said this evening: "We're very appreciative of the train drivers for not crossing the picket line in Limerick. There is a huge resilience and determination by the bus workforce to see out this strike."

"We have no problem meeting the company half way over new work practices they might want to bring in but we will continue this action to protect workers core wage payments."

A family of three from Illinois, Chicago, who were on the first leg of a dream trip to Ireland, found themselves stranded at Colbert Station, where they had planned to get on a train to Cork before kissing the Blarney Stone.

Retired Chicago firefighter, Glen Bush explained how he and his wife Amy and daughter Kaitlyn, had earlier landed off a plane at Shannon Airport at 6am, before travelling by taxi to Limerick only to find the Cork train empty and sitting on the platform at Colbert Station.

"We've been planning this trip for 10 years. This is our first (family) vacation after my retirement," chuckled Mr Bush, still managing to see the funny side.

"I checked to make sure, because strikes do happen, but everything was good to go when we left yesterday in Chicago...and by the time we landed in Shannon, suddenly the buses are on strike, and the trains (too) in solidarity."

"We had a reservation on a noon train to get us to Cork, and then from Cork (get another train) again to Dublin tomorrow," Mr Bush, (aged 47), added.

Clare journalist Brian O'Connell, who had been reporting from the picketline at Colbert Station for the Sean O'Rourke RTE radio programme, stepped in, offering the American family a lift to the Rebel County.

"Then we catch a plane to Scotland and hopefully there'll be no strikes there," Mr Bush said.

His wife added: "I just don't know how we are going to get around. We're in Ireland for three days and then we are gonna be going to Scotland."

Dermot Healy, local NBRU spokesman said Irish Rail workers "refused" to cross the Limerick picket line in solidarity with bus workers.

"I don't know how that's going to continue on into the day," he said.

"The anger amongst the workers here is absolutely palpable. It's absolutely disgraceful, in this day and age, that we should be forced down this particular route; given pay increases awarded recently to TDs and Ministers...and here we are on the picket line fighting pay cuts," Mr Healy said.

He accused Bus Eireann management of proposing to "dive into wage packets of ordinary workers".

"We're absolutely determined that we're not going to allow that to happen," he added.

Tom Keane and his late father Gerry - who worked on the buses in Limerick for 40 years - have given 70 years service to CIE and then Bus Eireann.

He said: "We've given everything to this company. I've never ever, as long as I've been here, seen morale as low."

"I've never seen my colleagues so angry. Like everybody else during the recession, we took the (financial) pain; we didn't get a wage increase in eight years. Now that we have come through that (management) want to slash our wages even more to keep the company open."

Mr Keane added: "I'm hurt. We feel we have to make a stand for our rights."

Pat Hanrahan summed up the mood of workers: "Disgusted and sad."

"I started working here with CIE prior to the break up of the company in 1987. I came in as a young lad, I've been a driver, a conductor, I did years in tours, so I'm very sad and very hurt and angry at the way we are being treated after all these years."

"About three years ago the company requested the staff take a pay cut which lasted for 18 months, so we took a pay cut in or premium payments; our overtime; our Sunday duties; to save the company to stave off a debt they were in - We did that because of our goodness, and now they are coming back and trying to slash everything we ever had."

Mr Hanrahan added: "My message to the management is to start treating workers with a bit of dignity and respect."

"They are trying to bring us to the bottom of the barrel in terms of our conditions, but we are not going to stand for that. We are going to fight to the bitter end, and if it means (standing) out on this road for another three months we will certainly stay out, because we are better than that."

"I'm angry; we have all given our lives to this job, driving buses and looking after disabled people and people on medical cards and people on social welfare; driving them and getting to know them and this is the way we are treated."

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