Union demanding change to 'untenable' conditions as bus drivers left to 'pee in a bottle'
Drivers at Dublin Bus and Bus Eireann claim they have been forced to urinate in bottles and beg to use the toilet in supermarkets because of a lack of facilities.
One of the main transport unions has written to the semi-state companies complaining that it has been fielding questions from members on the issue for months.
The National Bus and Railworkers Union claimed there are no facilities at termini on some routes.
It said they include the 39 and 39a in Ongar in West Dublin, the 54a route in Kiltipper, the 31 at Howth Summit, number 16 Ballinteer route, 121 Ashtown route and 25 between Merrion Square and Lucan.
The union said toilets are needed in Clane on the Bus Eireann route to Dublin, and at Dunshaughlin.
In a letter to the chief executives of the CIE bus companies and National Transport Authority, general secretary of the NBRU, Dermot O'Leary, said health and safety regulations obliged the companies to provide adequate sanitary facilities for employees.
He said disrupting transport services because of a basic human need is untenable and demanded a timeframe for building temporary toilets, which could be followed by permanent lavatory facilities on routes.
"Despite numerous attempts by the National Bus and Railworkers Union to arrive at satisfactory arrangements through a host of industrial relations meetings (tinkering around the edges is not a solution), both bus companies have to date failed to put adequate arrangements or protocols in place that would protect our members and ensure compliance with the minimum legislative requirements," said the letter sent earlier this month.
"This basic entitlement has been denied to bus drivers for far too long. It is of course a consequence of the questionable planning process/system in this country over decades, that has created a sprawling urban landscape that stretches out for miles, way beyond the reach of the depot/garages that previous generations of bus workers were able to both rely upon and access.
"Our members are telling us loud and clear that the time for the delivery of these basic entitlements is nigh," he said.
"Prevarication, or kicking the can down the road is not an option here."
The union is issuing thousands of leaflets across services explaining the plight of bus drivers this week.
"We have explained to commuters how extreme measures sometimes have to be undertaken, how drivers have to improvise, begging at the local supermarket or petrol station to use a toilet or worse, peeing in a bottle, is not how wash and sanitary facilities should be provided in this day and age," Mr O'Leary said.
He said the union is seeking a commitment from the operators and the National Transport Authority to provide the necessary resources.
The union leader said mayor of London Sadiq Khan had spent £6m (€6.9m) in wash and sanitary facilities for bus drivers last year.
The leaflet distributed on buses says no driver should have to beg to be allowed to use a toilet or illegally park a vehicle to answer a call of nature.
It says the union has been raising this issue for years with Dublin Bus and Bus Eireann.
A spokesperson for Dublin Bus told the Herald that discussions on the issue are ongoing.