22 June 2009

NBRU prepares for Strike at Bus Éireann

Ireland's National Bus and Rail Union (NRBU) is expected to serve a strike notice on Bus Éireann over the state company's € 30 million cost cutting plan.

This follows Bus Éireann's announcement that it intends - despite opposition from its own staff and trade unions - to implement the plan which includes cuts in services as well as redundancies, from Monday, June 29th.

The company says that its passenger numbers are "well down by 10%" and that it is now "losing more than € 500,000 a week". Thus it must address its financial situation "urgently".

Maybe it is because we live on an island, or perhaps it is just the ignorance of the management of
Bus Éireann and its parent company CIÉ - as well as their political master - that makes them so short-sighted and pigheaded. There is - to my knowledge - no public transport system in Europe that is not subsidised by the government of its country. This is seen as quite normal, a price well worth paying to provide proper public transport to all of a nation's people.

Even in Britain, where most of the public transport system was privatised under the last Tory government, subsidies are paid. (The only difference there is that the subsidy money from the taxpayers' contributions is now paid to private companies running a confusing system of many different 'franchises', while in the good old days the money went to a state-owned company.)

Only in Ireland politicians are daft enough to demand that state-owned public transport services have to make a profit, or at least not produce a deficit. They show again and again that they are completely out of touch with the rest of the nation, and have absolutely no idea of public service and public transport.
And - this has to be said - Bus Éireann's management is too spineless and self-serving to stand up to the politicians and make them aware of the realities on the ground.

Bus Éireann employs currently 2700 people, of whom around two thirds are bus drivers. It proposes to make 320 staff redundant, of which 220 are drivers.
And from July 5th it will "phase in" reductions or cuts in some services for which they say the demand is low.

Talks over the matter between Bus Éireann management and representatives of the NBRU and SIPTU (Ireland's largest trade union) were supposed to have concluded last Friday. However, on Wednesday the SIPTU delegates refused to attend, and thus the talks were cancelled.

SIPTU leaders accused Bus Éireann of failing to give details of voluntary redundancy terms, and to make permanent around fifty probationary drivers.

The NBRU will decide today what form of industrial action they intend to take, while SIPTU's position is not yet known. What is certain, however, is that we will see another summer with an industrial dispute in the nation's public transport sector.
Apart from the inconvenience this causes to all travellers, it will have a detrimental effect on the attempts to stabilise our dwindeling tourist numbers. Some years ago, when another strike by employees of the Irish railways lasted for most of the summer, it dealt a severe blow to tourism, which needed more than two years to recover from it.

It is bad enough that we are in a deep recession, made worse by the international financial crisis. But we Irish need to make things a lot more chaotic by creating industrial unrest on top of that. I think it was Jonathan Swift who said that if there is one Irishman roasted on a spit, it will surely be another Irishman turning the handle...
Seems that not much has changed since the days of the witty Dean and great satirical writer who gave us Gullivers Travels and the yahoos.

The Emerald Islander


As expected, representatives of the NBRU have this afternoon served a strike notice on Bus Éireann. SIPTU, which also represents bus drivers at the company, has warned management that it will ballot for industrial action as well if the proposed changes are implemented next week.

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