Stop the bus

Big wage rises chase inflation, we are told. P2000 is SIPTU's strategy to deliver increased take-home pay through a combined wage-moderation/tax-concession approach. Then why is SIPTU trying to introduce lower wages in Dublin Bus? Twice SIPTU AND THE NBRU have asked Dublin Bus workers to accept a 'viability plan' including lower starter rates. Twice the workers have rejected it in a ballot.

The rejection was two-to-one the first time and 55% against the next. No doubt those pushing the plan see a favourable trend here for the usual 'ballot-them-till-they-say-yes' tactic (though the craftworkers in the Analogue dispute were pushed 'a ballot too far').

We reproduce here a letter to the 'Irish Times' (30 October) from a Dublin Bus worker. The meaning of the last paragraph is not clear to us, and if it means that the Ryanair workers are better off getting shares from Ryanair than paying £2.20 per week dues to a recognised SIPTU, we couldn't disagree more.

"Last Spring SIPTU was busy wooing Ryanair baggage handlers to become union members, being concerned that they were open to exploitation/intimidation/low pay and bullying by Ryanair management. Many politicians spoke out in favour of SIPTU at this time.

Now with governmental approval, SIPTU, the NBRU and Dublin Bus management, produced a "viability plan" for Dublin Bus. One of the proposals contained in the plan is that future newly recruited bus drivers would commence employment at approximately £6.00 per hour gross (including shift allowance, etc.). The current national minimum wage being considered is £4.40 per hour! SIPTU recommended that the drivers presently employed would accept the deal for a once-off payment of £1,000 gross per driver and a nominal pay increase. The viability plan has been twice rejected so far.

Ryanair baggage handlers turned down SIPTU's advances, rating the shares which they received from their own company to be a better investment in their futures. This starkly contrasts with the return on the £2.20 per week that each driver must pay to SIPTU in union dues.

Yours etc.,

Pat Timmons
(SIPTU member)
Dublin Bus, Donnybrook, Dublin,4.

(Our note: for years now, shift work in any decent industrial job has commanded a premium of at least 25% - until the era of partnership when job ads. are regularly offering NO shift premium. A gross payment of £6.60 per hour including shift (at, say, 25%) is £4.50 basic, or below the 'two-thirds' recommendation of the National Minimum Wage Commission. It's just £175.50 per week for driving a bus full of passengers, one-person operated, through the traffic of Dublin!)

Now it looks like CIE are ready to attempt to force through viability plans that have been resisted in the companies. SIPTU national rail official Tony Tobin was spot on when he described the 17th November outburst of CIE chairperson, Brian Joyce, as preparing for confrontation with the unions. Joyce arrogantly called on the government to keep out of "the process" of implementation of major changes in work practices and cost saving measures.

"The reluctance of successive governments and departments", he said, "to countenance a disruption of service was always a trump card." He went on: "It is reasonable to suggest that if there is a place of refuge the workforce will head for that sanctuary"
('Irish Times', 18 November).

Unfortunately the unions have been acting in consort with this hawk, in accordance with the prevailing ideology of 'partnership' and 'managing change'. In Dublin Bus the union recommended the viability plan. It's the rank and file that this hawk in partners clothing is gearing up for confrontation with. He as much as acknowledged this when he said on the 17th that for a year the unions and management had made a major effort to reach agreement on implementing the changes, but " to bring the process to a conclusion" CIE needed the government to countenance the release of the dogs.

The rejection of the Dublin Bus 'viability plan' was due in no small measure to the campaigning of the cross-union rank & file Busworkers Action Group. The group called a two-hour protest of busworkers in October at the Dublin Bus headquarters, demanding a properly funded transport system. This action highlighted the common interest of busworkers and gridlocked travellers in securing adequate funding for public transport.

Instead Dublin Bus are pursuing 'viability' at the expense of new busdrivers and with a laughably low subsidy to public transport in the city. A Busworkers Action Group supporter said: "nearly all the cost of running Dublin Bus are met from fares. Only four percent is subsidy. That compares with a 75 percent subsidy in Rome or 70 percent in Amsterdam" ('Socialist Worker', 23 Oct.'98).

It appears Dublin Bus are also pursuing 'viability' at the expense of passengers and traffic congestion. The No.3 route services an area with a high proportion of older, carless people (Whitehall) and the second busiest road in the state (Swords-Drumcondra). According to the 'Northside People' (21 October '98), residents faced new waiting times extended to 40 minutes between buses.

When Labour TD Roisin Shortall inquired of Dublin Bus on their behalf, she was told that the number of buses on the service had indeed been reduced (without signalling a timetable change?) 'because of profitability concerns'. Profitability? A state service making profits on the aged of Whitehall? What happened to free travel? Profitability? Traffic congestion (too many cars, too few buses) is now said to cost Dublin two billion per year.

To the SIPTU Fightback page