Support for Bus Eireann workers over strike action
Support for Bus Eireann workers over strike action


Drivers and other employees of Ireland’s state-run bus company have said they feel they have “nothing to lose” as a nationwide bus strike has focused attention on the crisis over wages in the public transport sector.

Five trade unions, representing the 2,600 staff, announced the strike after a three-hour meeting on Thursday. The decision followed the move by management on Wednesday to implement unilaterally nearly 50 work-practice changes and efficiency measures. The company argued that the measures were essential if it was to have a sustainable future.

“This is not like any other dispute that we have had in regards to pay or any other issues in recent years,” said union organiser Willie Noone. “This is a fundamental issue about decent conditions in a workplace.”

The disruption quickly spread to the rail network, due to picketing related to the dispute. However, workers for Dublin Bus, which is a separate company, are not in dispute and their services are unaffected. School buses are also operating, as are most of the the GoBe, Eurolines and cross-Border Translink operated services, although intending passengers are advised to check ahead.

The all-out strike action will be in place indefinitely, with union sources saying that there is no indication of both sides going to the negotiation table any time soon.

While Bus Eireann have claimed that the industrial action could force the company out of business, Mr Noone said the workers didn’t have any choice.

“We have explained this to our membership that this is a concern that we have on their behalf and they have indicated to us that it’s not really much of a choice, working for a company on rates of pay that they can’t survive on,” he said.

“Do they continue to subsidise pubic transport on their backs or on their families’ backs?

“Some of those people have clearly said to us that if it it means Bus Eireann has to go broke well so be it because they have nothing to lose at this stage,” he added.

Sinn Fein TD Maurice Quinlivan, who visited one picket in Limerick, offer his party’s support. He said staff were “very angry” that they has been forced into a strike.

“Minister Shane Ross and the Fine Gael party are hell bent on taking our national bus company down the path of wage cuts, service cuts, and privatisation. This has been official party policy for Fine Gael since their 2011 manifesto pledge to open all bus routes to competition.

“In addition, the current Public Service Obligation subvention is wholly inadequate. I am calling on Minister Ross to come out of hiding, face up to his responsibilities and do the job he is being paid for.”

Sinn Fein TD for Meath West Peadar Toibin also spoke out in support of Bus Eireann workers. He said that, while difficulties experienced by those using the service are deeply regrettable, this course of action was an inevitable consequence of the “insidious government policy” to undermine public services.

“Right around the world, there is a significant migration of wealth from the 90% to the 10%,” he said.

“The richest 85 people on the planet have the same wealth as 3.5 billion people. This is leading to unrest and instability around the world. This is happening for a number of reasons.

“One of those is the continued attack on wages and working conditions of ordinary workers. Workers such as those in Bus Eireann and Tesco find that through no fault of their won their pay and conditions are being hammered.”

He said the current crisis had not come about by accident.

“Bus Eireann are not being allowed to compete on a level playing field with private contractors,” he said, pointing to differences in the handling of free travel passes and the profitability of the routes which are provided.

“Years of under-subvention is coming home to roost. It’s worth noting that our public transport network receives the lowest subvention in Europe. It’s clear to me that Minister Ross is not wasting this crisis and is opportunistically widening the private sector involvement in this sector.”

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