By Matt Waine
A PLANNED strike by Dublin Bus drivers and staff was postponed after an eleventh-hour intervention by the Labour Relations Commission (LRC). The strike threat came after the company announced its intention to sack 290 staff, including 160 drivers as part of a “cost cutting” plan.
As we go to press, talks are still continuing at the LRC. However, it now appears that the company is using the threat of redundancies and cuts to the service as a cover for their real agenda – to force through major changes to work practices. A key component of this would be the introduction of part-time work and talks are presently deadlocked on this issue.
This is a serious attack on the conditions of all workers at Dublin Bus, not just temporary or new staff, and is the thin end of a wedge to develop Ryanair style working conditions. If the company get away with this, a two-tier workforce will be created which will make it easier for the company to divide workers in the future. Both unions, the NBRU and SIPTU, must fight these attacks and defend all jobs at the company.
The company claims it is facing a ?31 million short fall. Even if this claim is true it ignores the reality that Dublin Bus receives the lowest government subsidy for public transport in all of the EU!
Incredibly a government which contains the Green Party is going to be fined ?200 million for excessive carbon emissions – yet it is cutting the number of buses in both Dublin Bus and Bus Eireann.
Rather than investing in public transport this government is stiking the boot into the workers and the travelling public who will lose out on services. Expenditure on buses this year is a paltry 6% of what the government is spending on its road projects.
This is a serious challenge to the unions. At a time when thousands are joining the dole queue every week, unions should not accept any redundancies in the company. Their campaign to defend the jobs and conditions in Dublin Bus should also lay the blame for the financial shortfall and the transport crisis at the feet of the government. They should counterpose a publically funded integrated transport startegy to improve and extend public transport throughout the city and environs, which would itself create thousands of new jobs.
But in order to do this, decisive action, including joint action between all the unions in Dublin Bus and Bus Eireann to unite workers will be necessary.