It's a relief that the rail stoppages have been suspended. I can remember when Tom Darby set up the National Busmen's Union in 1963, which later expanded to include rail workers and is now the National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU). Over the years I have got to know a number of locomotive drivers. There is a long and proud history in Ireland of the men, and now women, who drive our trains. In the days of steam they did tough and dirty jobs. Train drivers work hard. Today their jobs are cleaner and the conditions have much improved.
Maybe because I'm a bit of a rail anorak, I'm inclined to think that there is a nobility about a locomotive driver. Sometimes the wars that are waged between the drivers' unions and the company give the impression that HR is not Irish Rail's strongest quality. As an outsider looking in, one can't help but guess that there is far too much 'them versus us' at Irish Rail.
On Monday, November 6 on a return service from Connolly to Dunboyne I found myself losing some of my sympathy for the NBRU. Lying on a seat was an eight-page leaflet, titled: 'Another 24 Hours of Rail Strikes'. It is an attempt by the NBRU to explain their case to the travelling public.
It's in the format of a dialogue between an Irish Rail worker and his neighbour. The conversation takes place in their local pub. It is fictional. Eight pages of the most annoying and boring writing I have had the misfortune to read.
When a railway union cannot spell the plural form of 'train' correctly, then I'm wondering who these people really are. This is a direct copy of a paragraph on page seven: 'Customer service Staff on train's, Attendence programme, Vehicle management system (Irish Rail has big fleet of cars/vans), etc.' What on earth does that mean? Note how they spell 'attendance'. The leaflet spells 'pantomime' as 'Pantomine' and for some reason beyond me they spell it with a capital 'P'. Right through the leaflet they seem to have a penchant for capital letters for the first letter of common nouns. That a trade union would spell the person who presides over court proceedings 'Judge' rather than the correct way, 'judge', must be a Freudian slip? The NBRU think the world population is six billion. It's over seven billion. Almost on every paragraph there are grammatical and or syntactical errors. In this eight-page leaflet one is subjected to read the words: 'pissed', 'Christ', 'feck'. I take great exception at the use of such profanities and vulgarities.
Is it, that the author thinks that he or she has some sort of literary talent that allows she/he to write in such a style? It tries to explain why the unions are in dispute with Irish Rail. It could not be less effective and confusing. It is convoluted and almost impossible to follow in any sort of coherent fashion. It's silly too.
If the NBRU's negotiating skills are anything like this document, then is it any wonder we have had rail stoppages? It demeans every train driver in the country. But guess what, I'm still a friend of locomotive drivers. Maybe the next time, NBRU management decide to write a leaflet explaining their case, they should run it by locomotive drivers before publishing it.