Tuesday 25 October 2016

Dan White: Hitting public by targeting bank holiday is an own goal that will haunt bus unions


Dublin Bus services will be affected by the dispute
Dublin Bus services will be affected by the dispute

Have Dublin Bus and Bus Eireann bus drivers got a death wish? That was the first question to spring to mind when drivers at both of the CIE-owned bus companies voted for strike action on May 1.

In case you hadn't noticed May 1 is the Friday of the May bank holiday weekend so the strike, if it goes ahead, will maximise the disruption to commuters and people travelling further afield. Talk about trying to win friends and influence people.

No fewer than 92pc of Dublin Bus drivers and 91pc of Bus Eireann drivers have voted for industrial action up to and including going on strike, with the first strike scheduled for the start of the bank holiday weekend. The strike vote is ostensibly in protest at plans by the two companies to put up to 10pc of their routes out to tender allowing private operators bid to operate services currently provided by Dublin Bus and Bus Eireann.

The plan to allow private operators to bid for services comes in the wake of proposals for the liberalisation of the bus market, published by the National Transport Authority in September, 2013.

Surely, with only 10pc of routes open to private sector bidders, the response of the Dublin Bus and Bus Eireann drivers has been utterly excessive? However, as is often the case in these situations, this isn't really about what it's about.

The drivers and their unions are worried that opening up 10pc of routes to private sector competition is the thin end of the wedge and that many more routes will be privatised in the years ahead - with disastrous consequences for the pay and conditions of the existing drivers.


While it is possible to have some sympathy for these concerns, the bus drivers and their trade unions seem determined to snuff out that sympathy. If they are to have any hope of stopping the advance of bus privatisation, the drivers need to have the travelling public on their side. Leaving tens of thousands of commuters and bank holiday travellers stranded won't achieve this.

Instead it is far more likely to increase support for bus privatisation. Whose side are the trade unions really on?

Although most people don't know it, a big chunk of Dublin's public transport has already been privatised.

The LUAS light rail system is operated not by CIE but by French company Transdev.

A bank holiday strike by bus drivers will almost certainly ensure that a large proportion of Dublin Bus and Bus Eireann's bus routes will also be privatised.

A bus strike will speed up privatisation rather than halt it.

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