A report from accountancy firm Grant ThorntonGrant Thornton report and financial “crisis” at Bus Eireann. is to recommend huge cuts at Bus Eireann in both wages and conditions of staff and of services, especially in the west of Ireland with other routes been contracted out to private operators.
The Board of CIE has accepted the report and Bus Eireann management are going to try to force it in in the next few months. Essentially the report recommends the carve up of the company with expressway services being hived off and widespread cuts to drivers and other workers’ wages.
The crisis is an artificial one manufactured by both the Government and its agency the National Transport Authority (NTA). It is a way that Fine Gael sees of attacking unionised workers and paving the way for non-union private operators to increase their share of the market in public transport. The move is designed to stop the spread of pay claims by workers both at Bus Eireann and elsewhere.
The report will claim that Bus Eireann faces insolvency within months and must save 7 million euro by slashing wages and services.
This is nonsense. Its financial position is dictated by the subsidy it gets from the Government. Since 2009 it has seen a 35% fall in subvention. In 2009 the company got 49 million euro, last year it got just 33 million.
If the Govt just kept funding at the same levels as 2012 (just under 37 million euro) there would be no crisis at all.
The NTA has further worsened the “crisis”, it has given licences to private operators on routes where they can make money. This has undermined Bus Eireann routes and passenger numbers. On some routes the private operators have subsequently withdrawn from some towns and villages and left them without a service. In the same time Bus Eireann have also withdrawn from a huge number of smaller towns and villages and cut the service in many other areas.
Bus Eirenn workers accepted large cuts during the recession and have not had a wage increase in eight years, the workforce has fallen from 2830 in 2009 to 2,480 now.
On paper the company operates more buses now than a few years ago, but it is covering less kilometres and its fleet has aged significantly; a clear sign of under investment.
In 2011 it had 460 buses, it now has 475.More pertinently between 2010 and 2015 it saw a fall from 38 million to 33 million in annual operated vehicle kilometres. This reflects the actual reduction in its services which saw a large swaythe of routes cut and reduced so that many towns and villages across the country lost their services. The company did this as a cost cutting measure to make up for the reduction in government subsidies. But this of course just means less people are carried by public transport in many areas of the country.
Bus Eireann is not a “basket case” in need of another cost cutting measure.
It has seen passenger numbers rise by 10% since 2010 and operational costs fall by 15% since 2009 despite the Government’s cutl in subsidy of 35% over the same period.
The workers and the company give a lot more back to the state in taxes than they get in subsidies , for example in 20014 it gave €52m in taxes back to the State , compared to an PSO subvention of €31.9m that year.
This is a set up to usher in further privatisations of public transport and attacks on workers’ rights. Grant Thornton, the auditing company, are like other large auditing companies relied on by employers and Governments to justify neo liberal policies that attack state provided services and call for more privatisations and cuts.
Like PWC, Ernst and Young or KPMG, they made millions from the bank crisis by conducting reports and investigations into the banking collapse ( Grant Thornton got €2.6 million from the state for reports on the crisis). Internationally the company have been involved in auditing banks that subsequently went bust in scandals that saw tax payers in one of Europe’s poorest country’s (Moldovia) straddled with a one billion euro debt. It didn’t do them any harm and they continue to grow fat on the back of work like this where they deliver the needed report to justify attacks on services and workers.
Like Ray Hearon, the new CEO at Bus Eireann, who will try to push this plan in for his Fine Gael masters Grant Thornton have no interest in public transport or the people who need it. Hearon was previously CEO at Arnotts and worked at anti-union outfit Ryanair before that under that other Fine Gael darling Michael O’Leary.
Bus Eireann is seen as the weak link of CIE. It has long being Fine Gael policy to break up and dismantle the company and its individual parts. The only thing that stopped previous attempts by the likes of Lowry, Brennan and others was the threat of an all-out national transport strike across all the company’s including Rail, Dart and Dublin Bus. This should be the threat that again forces them to back down and one we should raise at every opportunity.
Hands off Bus Eireann, hands off our public transport!