May 2015        

Support the bus workers!

It’s in all our interests to support the bus workers’ strike.
     The establishment media have gone into overdrive about the action taken by Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann drivers, members of both SIPTU and the NBRU. The first two-day strikes took place on 1 and 2 May, with two further strikes planned for 15 and 16 May. The drivers will place pickets at more than thirty sites around the country in an attempt to protect services and decent jobs from the threat of privatisation.
     We already have the experience of the workers in the privatised refuse-collection companies, resulting in long and bitter disputes in Greyhound, which reneged on the terms and conditions. Experience tells us that once services are privatised, workers’ terms and conditions rapidly deteriorate while at the same time the service gets worse.
     The government wants to open up 10 per cent of public bus routes to competitive tendering, which can only result in workers’ terms and conditions becoming the main area of competition, which means lower pay and poorer conditions.
     Emergency talks, facilitated by the Labour Relations Commission, ended without agreement on Thursday afternoon [30 April]. After the talks SIPTU stated: “After months of talks the bus companies have refused to meaningfully engage with SIPTU members on their six-point agenda which outlines their concerns over the proposed privatisation plans. In the face of this intransigence our members have been left with no option but to embark on a campaign of industrial action which will cost them financially and cause severe inconvenience to the travelling public which they are proud to serve.”
     The bosses at both publicly owned companies have threatened legal action against the trade unions in order to recover losses in income, together with fines.
     It is in everyone’s interests to support the struggle against privatisation and the inevitable undermining of transport workers’ terms and conditions. Privatisation will lead to further deterioration in services, as private companies will cherry-pick routes and run services at peak times and only a minimal service for districts where there is high unemployment. Privatisation will also affect rural communities, where private companies will again cherry-pick.
     As the privatisation of routes expands—as it will do—this can only lead to global transport companies getting a foothold in transport in this country. Then the race to the bottom will hit breakneck speed.

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