From Socialist Voice, May 2010

Improving services by abolishing them

Bus Átha Cliath has just announced that it will be letting 150 workers go, and taking ninety buses off the streets—and that at the same time it will be improving the service.
     Only a spin doctor could claim that reducing the number of buses will improve rather than disimprove the service. They do this by claiming that services will be faster through the introduction of additional bus lanes (which is true, but has nothing to do with the case), while some routes will be taken off and other routes “straightened” (which clearly is a reduction in service for some areas).
     The truth is simpler: public services must be reduced to make room for the profiteers who have been waiting on the sidelines for years for the promised introduction of “competition.” It is the inevitable outcome of the drive towards privatisation, which is both an ideological obsession of the Government and an imperative forced on it by the European Union and especially by the Lisbon Treaty. The only way that privateers can get a slice of the action, as promised to them for years by their political cronies, is if enough of the public service is undermined or eliminated to make room for them.
     What, incidentally, will happen to the ninety buses being discarded? Will they be used for landfill? Or will they be sold off cheaply, given a paint job, and put back on the streets by privateers? Even the oldest Dublin buses are in perfectly good condition, and they were paid for mostly by our income tax, not by fares. It would not be the first time that the Government made a virtual present of our property to gombeen-men and profiteers.
     And the first principle of the profiteers will be non-union employment. The only way that commercialised public services can make a profit—which is the whole point of privatisation—is with lower wages and poorer conditions. The fares certainly won’t be lower, the fuel and other operating costs will be the same: only wages and conditions can be “flexible.”
     The destruction of the trade union movement is now an objective of the employers and therefore of the Government that serves them. The privatisation and commercialisation of public services therefore serves two purposes simultaneously: the transfer of public wealth to profiteers, and the elimination of the trade union movement as a serious organisation.
     The only force that can stop this drive is the trade union movement itself; but it’s all too clear that most of the present trade union leadership are incapable of anything other than lying down and accepting whatever they are told by employers, politicians, and media. Until the worm turns it will be more of the same.

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