Bus drivers reportedly upset with conditions
SYDNEY, Australia (AP) -- Out-of-town bus drivers recruited for the Olympics are working 12-hour shifts with no breaks and sleeping up to eight per room in dormitories, union officials have complained.
At a meeting last Friday with Olympic organizers, the Transport Workers Union also charged that drivers are being underfed. One meal for drivers, the union officials said, consisted of an apple and a drink.
The meeting came at the end of a week during which bus drivers were partly blamed for a series of Olympic transportation problems that led to highly publicized annoyances for athletes and journalists.
The out-of-town drivers, who also complain they have not had adequate training on Sydney's streets, are among 4,500 drivers hired as part of the Olympic bus network.
The out-of-town drivers were promised a package offering 11/2 times their normal salary, as well as room and board.
The drivers said they cannot sleep well because of colleagues returning from late shifts and that the dormitory has no security or regular cleaning. They also are upset at the size and quality of meals.
"The drivers are under enormous public pressure as it is, and yet a lot of them cannot even get eight hours' sleep a night or get a decent meal," TWU secretary Tony Sheldon told The Sydney Morning Herald.
"Many of them have come from the country areas and are not familiar with driving conditions in Sydney. Unless something is done quickly, there will be a lot more problems during the games."
The Olympic Roads and Transport Authority acknowledged there were some problems with the drivers' conditions.
"The drivers are very important to the operations of the games, and the well-being of drivers is very important," ORTA spokesman Paul Willoughby said. "We are working to address the issues which have been raised."
The Herald also obtained a diary of 30 complaints about bus service on one day last week, detailing problems with the Olympic shuttle service.
The problems include a driver getting lost going to the shooting range and taking four hours to deliver guns for team members, a Russian team official being forced to cancel a meeting after his bus driver got lost and 12 Italian athletes being dropped off at the wrong spot.
And when a bus carrying fencers broke down, the depot manager sent a mechanic but no replacement bus.