Buses might be back on the streets of Waterford and the inter-city services might be operating but it is anyone's guess for how long this might be. There hasn't been a date set for the ballot on foot of the Labour Court recommendations between the two opposing sides in the dispute but it is already looking as if bus drivers are in opposition to any termination of their strike action.
In several interviews with bus driver representatives here in Waterford it has been made abundantly clear that the overall feeling amongst members is one of anger that a more fitting settlement has not been made. How this will translate into an overall national ballot has yet to be seen but it is clear that the feeling here in Waterford is very much against the 'yes' vote in the ballot.
While it is clear how bus drivers in Waterford feel it is just as clear how commuters have felt over the almost three week dispute. With the youngest and eldest amongst the most numerous of passengers here in Waterford city it has been clear that the most vulnerable that have been affected by the strike. For the elderly in particular buses are an absolute lifeline enabling them to get out and about, not only to do any business or shopping that they have but also providing a vital social link in their daily lives. While the young might be better, physically, able to navigate their daily lives without buses the lack of the service has also proven to be a considerable headache.
What has been interesting to see over the course of this almost 3 week national strike is the manner in which not only has the dispute been covered in the national media but also the way in which the strike seems to have become a signifier of the divide between Dublin and rural Ireland. It is interesting to see that we have come to a pass where Dublin is considered as the center and everything outside of the capital is considered as rural and all that that word implies - which is ironic considering the fact that Dublin is perhaps one of the most parochial places you could wish to find in the country. Coverage of the strike did improve over the course of the bus strike but only when it became abundantly clear just how much of a toll it was taking. Add into that the effect of secondary picketing in Dublin and it seemed people in the media, as well as the Dail were beginning to finally get the message of just how bad the strike was. Now the buses are back running, but for how long? The wheels might be turning for now but when the results of the national ballot are known will they just come off altogether?