Saturday 23 September 2017

Profile: NBRU general secretary Dermot O'Leary

Pragmatic and a skilled media performer, union leader likes to take a hands-on role

NBRU general secretary Dermot O'Leary. Photo: Tom Burke
NBRU general secretary Dermot O'Leary. Photo: Tom Burke
Paul Melia

Paul Melia

Considered the more militant of the transport unions, the National Bus and Railworkers' Union was formed in 1963 and is headed by general secretary Dermot O'Leary.

Appointed in September 2013, having previously served as assistant general secretary for more than six years, he worked for Irish Rail, where he served as a senior union representative across all operational grades.

The union represents about 1,400 Bus Éireann staff, and Mr O'Leary is considered to be a hands-on leader, visiting depots and garages across the country and keeping in touch with local officers.

The union does not have the financial firepower of Siptu or other larger unions, and he is credited with keeping it together under difficult circumstances.

A skilled media performer, he has been at the forefront of numerous campaigns to secure better conditions and improvements for workers across the entire CIÉ group, and is not afraid to ballot for industrial action.

The NBRU has been involved in strikes at Irish Rail and Dublin Bus over recent years, and the Bus Éireann strike is now into its second week with no prospect of being settled.

The NBRU has previously said that Mr O'Leary earns €89,000 a year, and is paid a €5,000 contribution towards his pension.

Personable and dedicated to improving public transport services for both workers and passengers, he has repeatedly called for a public forum to be established to map out the future of bus and rail services. Pragmatic, he has also accepted the need to close loss-making services, and acknowledges that some working practices in Bus Éireann need to be examined.

But he has also criticised the National Transport Authority, saying despite spending hundreds of million of euro every year, it does not appear to accept responsibility for the state of the public transport network.

A large part of the problems within the transport sector which have led to industrial unrest is repeated cuts in funding over recent years. He argues that these cannot be made up by hitting workers' terms and conditions, especially given they have already accepted pay cuts.

"My job is to represent my members," he told this newspaper last year.

"I don't represent the Joe Soap in the street. I can have sympathy for them. I can say that we don't want to go on strike."

The NBRU website says he is an avid sports fan, with a passion for Cork hurling and football, Chelsea and Munster rugby.

Irish Independent

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