Bus drivers could be added to the critical skills list so companies can recruit from outside the EU.

It comes as bus companies around the country complain of difficulties recruiting drivers.

Appearing before the Oireachtas Transport Committee last week, the NTA, Dublin Bus and private operator Go-Ahead blamed recruitment issues for the cancellation of bus services in Dublin in recent months.

Currently, bus drivers are on the Ineligible Occupations List, meaning people can’t be brought in from outside the EU to take up the roles.

The Department of Transport is now seeking to move the occupation to the Critical Skills list to enable companies to bring in more workers.

Bus drivers

A spokesperson for the Department of enterprise confirmed it was engaging with transport on the plan.

“In recent weeks we have been made aware of bus driver labour shortages from companies operating in the coach and bus Sector in Ireland,” he said.

“The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment continues to keep the employment permits system under review in light of changing labour market circumstances and is engaging with the Department of Transport on the eligibility of the role of Bus Driver for employment permits.”

The department said it will need proof the recruitment issues are solely due to shortages across the EEA and are not related to salary or the employment conditions on offer.

Pay and conditions

Dublin Commuter Coalition Chair Feljin Jose said the change could help address staff shortages – but said wider issues over working conditions must be addressed.

“This will come in useful but at the same time, if they don’t address the issues that are leading bus drivers to leave the sector right now, they are going to run into similar problems next year and the year after with the drivers they’re hiring,” he said.

Meanwhile, Sinn Fein Transport spokesperson Darren O’Rourke says Government also needs to examine why some operators are struggling to retain current staff:

Both Dublin Bus and Go-Ahead Ireland recently apologised for issues flagged by commuters, blaming driver shortages and software problems.

“Challenges”

A Department of Transport spokesperson confirmed the attempt to get drivers off the Ineligible Occupations List.

They said it was doing so “due to the challenges currently being experienced by operators in relation to the recruitment of bus drivers, and the impact that these difficulties are having on service delivery across the public transport network”.

The spokesman said the department is also engaging with the NTA and bus companies on the issue.

Additional reporting Tom Douglas.