Owen McCormack, SIPTU, Dublin Bus driver
Bus workers are absolutely right to strike over the NTA (National Transport Authority) proposal to tender out 10% of Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann routes.
Despite NTA claims that this isn’t privatisation it means private companies will be handed routes currently operated by the semi state companies’ and even handed the buses that are currently owned by the state.
The NTA’s claims that they will guarantee drivers conditions as they are forced to move to a new private company are totally false. In reality drivers will have NO guarantee of long term conditions, rights, or rosters. Pension schemes and conditions like medical and travel facilities will be under threat as well.
The entire purpose of the competitive tendering process is to hammer unionised workers pay and conditions and introduce the kind of working conditions and rosters common in the private non-union transport sector. This is what the Fine Gael Minister O‘Donoghue is talking about when he says he wants to see “competitive tension” in the bus “market”.
The Government plan to hand over 10% will not end there. While Labour is claiming their influence in Government has stopped any further privatisation, the reality is this tranche of routes will be just the first if the NTA succeed in this plan. They will move to tender out other routes by 2019 and use the same justifications – EU laws and greater efficiency – for doing so.
In fact the proposals will do nothing for public transport; not a single extra bus or journey will be added to public transport in Dublin or the South East.
All that will happen is a private company employing drivers on reduced rates and conditions will operate the routes with state subsidies being diverted to the shareholders and owners of the private company.
The move is part of the privatisation and neoliberal policy’s beloved by Fine Gael and Fianna Fail and disgracefully supported by the Labour Party. The NTA claims it conducted research that proves the tendering policy works and cites a report it paid Ernst and Young to conduct.
Ernst & Young are the consultants who gave Anglo Irish Banks a glowing report before they destroyed the economy. Bus workers strike plans have rattled this government.
They can stop the privatisation of these routes by a sustained campaign of industrial action and a wider campaign against the privatisation agenda.
Such a fight can win support from the wider labour movement and give heart to many workers to resist similar attacks in their workplaces.
Bus workers can bring the spirit of the water charges campaign into the labour movement and help roll back years of austerity and anti-worker measures.