SHOCK, ANGER and disbelief probably best describe the feelings of Dublin Bus workers at the announcement that 290 workers are to be sacked over the next while. Along with the job losses, over 120 buses, nearly ten per cent of the fleet, are to be axed. On top of this, the company is refusing to pay the increases due under the last partnership deal. Bus Eireann are using similar arguments to sack 300 workers.
Dublin Bus claim that they are facing a ?31 million deficit this year and that passenger numbers are declining, meaning it is no longer viable to maintain the service at the present level. However, management is using the recession as a cover to implement a serious attack on working conditions and work practices.
Transport Minister Noel Dempsey has washed his hands of the issue, saying it is a matter for the management and the unions. However, it is the government’s own actions that have undermined the public transport system, blocking integrated ticketing; new route expansion etc. while favouring the introduction of private companies into the market. Consecutive Fianna Fail governments have encouraged road building at the expense of investing in public transport and Dublin Bus receives the lowest state subsidy in the EU.
Dublin Bus claims the cuts won’t impact on the quality of the service. But how can you cut 10% and expect there to be no serious consequences? The reality is that whole communities in surburban Dublin are already severly under-serviced at present. By reducing the frequency of services, many commuters will be forced back into their cars, adding to the rush hour gridlock. In this, the Green Party has exposed themselves yet again. A core policy of theirs during the last election was to reduce carbon emissions by expanding public transport. In 2006, there was a 5% increase in emissions from the transport sector. While posing as opponents to the cuts in Dublin Bus, the Greens support them as compliant partners in government.
Both the NBRU and SIPTU have come out in opposition to compulsory redundancies and are balloting for industrial action, which will likely endorse strike action. However, the Socialist Party is opposed to all redundancies even those that are deemed to be voluntary. As a society we need more buses in Dublin and nationally and greater investment from the state to create a proper integrated public transport system. By accepting job losses, the union leaders will be assisting the government’s agenda of moving towards privatisation of public transport through the running down of the public sector.
The Socialist spoke to John McCamley, Socialist Party candidate in Lanesborough/Charlestown and Santry area and a SIPTU shop steward in Dublin Bus, about the mood of the workers. “Obviously, people are very angry. We’re not blind. We see the hand outs and bail outs for the banks and the way we’re treated. There’s a real feeling that we have to fight this. If we let them get away with this they’ll destroy our jobs and our futures.
“300 workers are losing their jobs and all management are sacrificing is a 10% cut in their bonuses. We’ve asked to see the company accounts and so far management have refused. What are they hiding? What’s needed now is determined action to force the govenment back. As a first step, the unions need to organise joint action across the tranport sector involving the travelling public. This isn’t just about jobs. It’s also about building a decent properly funded public transport system.”