Report from Dublin Busworkers Anti privatisation Public Forum

23 July 2003


"LIGHT UP THE SKY"

Myself and Chekov attended the bus workers meeting last night in Liberty hall. This is one of a series of meetings where the workers are out to try and explain their side of the story with the upcoming threat of privatisation being faced by them. There was a good attendance of people at the meeting well in excess of a hundred, I would estimate. The crowd consisted of bus workers, lefties, and concerned citizens as well as well known trade union activists. The meeting was chaired by Eoin Mc Cormack of the bus workers action group.

There were three speakers on the platform. First up to speak was Bill McCaffrey (worker Director) SIPTU. His excellent speech dealt with the carnage of the discredited UK rail model for privatisation. He said this fight was one against the "economic orthodoxy and intellectual gutlessness" of the present right wing government who consistently run away from any debate on the issue. Brennan is busy spinning a web off lies and deceit about the issue and it being backed up by the "nest of right wing ideologues in the cabinet". At the moment the plan is to break Dublin bus up into 4 neat parts. Working conditions are only guaranteed to remain the same for the first 12 months of the new regime. The lie that this will in some way save money was dealt with. In London the subsidies have increased to £575 M PA. The same has happened in Copenhagen, another shining example held up by the minister. Subsidies have increased to EUR124 M from previously being EUR100 and passengers have decreased.

Gombeen Brennan has now switched to London as his prima facia example. There are 7 operators working there. Usually this means that there are only two bids for certain routes or in some cases only a sole bid is entered. This puts paid to the myth of increased competition. Because of poor pay and conditions this has led to problems with certain routes being cancelled. Dublin Bus by comparison had a consultancy firm investigate it and it came back with two essential problems.

1. Inadequate Funding from Government

2. Traffic congestion.

McCaffrey finished off by saying that the ideology of putting profit before people had to be vigorously challenged. In 1913 William Murphy that little turd tried to smash the union of the ITGWU, now Brennan is at the same game and we cannot let him win.

The next speaker was Gerry Charles from the National Bus and Rail workers union. (worker director) He went on to outline the disaster that privatisation had brought on the transport systems in London and Copenhagen. The subsidies for transport in London is expected to rise to a staggering £1Billion Stg in the next six years. Low pay and conditions had led to cancellations of 10 to 15% off buses. A driver gets £16 - £18 K per annum and most have to do overtime to meet the cost of living in that city. 20 -25% turnover of staff and this is the shining example that Brennan wants to implement. Dublin Bus by comparison made a profit of EUR3.4M last year. A further EUR1.8M was lost due to fares being rounded down during the euro change over. A new fleet of buses was bought at the same time. There has been a 3% increase in passengers. A firm of consultants stated that it was one of the highest most efficient transport companies in Europe and even the Danish are now admitting that their experiment with privatisation has not being a success and they are looking at Dublin bus as an example of how it should be done.

Finally Mick O'Reilly of the ATGWU - title Senior Industrial Organiser - spoke. Firstly he congratulated the union on the no fares day and said it was one of the "greatest pieces of imaginative trade unionism" and he was disgusted that it was met with such a mealy mouthed response in the media. He stated that this battle would be won by a combination of factors, political, industrial, and propaganda. He said that it was ironic that Fianna Fail who had developed the State companies in the 1930's are now so intent on wrecking them by blindly copying the cul de sac of privatisation that had been implemented across the Irish sea. Dublin Bus had survived despite getting the lowest level of public funding of all public sector transport companies in the EU. In a time when Financial institutions had received tax cuts from 38% to 12% the public services had been starved of money. The proposed break up of Aer Rianta is another case of the idiocy of this government and the obsession they have with creating opportunities for their rich friends to make yet more money. Mick then used this opportunity to talk about the partnership agreements that have been in existence for 15 years between Unions and the government. Although he is on record as being opposed to them he said that now is the time to go back to this right wing cabinet and say that all agreements are off. Again Bertie Ahern was on record as saying that he was against privitisation. So then stop it from happening. Effectively with Mick's powerful delivery I read this as a declaration of war on the governments intentions. WE will Fight them and "we will light up the sky because we are right". I couldn't have agreed more.

The questions focussed on the importance of action. The feeling from workers was that the time for talking was over, as one worker said there has to be give and take in talks and so why were the officials talking to the government as they had nothing left to give! Des Derwin spoke about the need to link up the fights in Aer Rianta with the Bus workers. The Path got up as a member of RTS and congratulated the bus workers on their imaginative action on no fares day. A train driver gave a brilliant history of the doomed headstones that represented previous attempts at privatisation of CIE. A guy whose father was a train driver and whose da was a conductor came back to Ireland after being away for the boom (US & OZ) and he tore into the PD policy of this government and said that it was globalisation plain and simple and that it hadn't worked only to make the rich man richer. A Spartacist got up and in a very thick teutonic accent managed to take offence at the fact that someone had dared to criticize the great transport system of Mother Russia (he had himself been to Moscow and could tell for a fact the smooth efficient system ran ze workers). He also managed to slag off the Socialist Party and the SWP in his five minutes barely comprehensible speech. Of course Chekov, Kevin and myself couldn't stop giggling as he wound himself up into a conniption. Most people would've gone home with this clown as a classic caricature in their head of what the left is like. Brid Smith spoke for the SWP and said that it was important to link this fight with the struggle against the bin tax and that meeting should happen in local communities so that the bus workers got to explain their side of the story.

Overall I felt that this was a good meeting. The mood amongst the workers is that the fight is on. The mood from people is that this is a battle ground where we take this right wing government on. There was an element of the meeting where praise of the achievements of Dublin bus workers overshadowed the obvious problems that exist. One speaker used the slogan "if it ain't broke don't fix it". Both myself and Chekov felt that it would be better to concentrate on the lack of investment and the congestion, rather than to claim that Dublin bus needed no changes. Given the fact that many people are frustrated with Dublin's public transport system, it would tend to reinforce the perception that the workers are 'luddites' and simply against change, if they push the line that the bus system works perfectly. We felt that the busworkers should also address some of the problems with the current system in their action, so that this becomes a progressive fight rather than just a defensive one. A real transport plan has to be made for this country and more specifically for this city for the sake of all our futures. It's up to all of us to get involved and ensure that we save Dublin bus from Becoming another headstone on the autobaann to ruling class making more money from the people's assets.

PS> The busworkers have leaflets which are available for distribution in local areas and they encourage people to organise meetings in their areas to explain the issues. The unions should have no problem with providing speakers and drivers on local routes may help publicse them. The busworkers action group can be contacted at: bag@oceanfree.net

Upcoming action days: No fares day August Strike 1 one day 14th September Strike 2 One day October Strike 3 Two days in November.

by Dermot Sreenan

see also

Bosses want to privatise buses and trains
The FF/PD coalition are pushing ahead with plans to privatise buses and trains. Should we worry, does it matter who the boss is?

The consequences of transport privatisation
More cars on the road means more road building, more road repairs, more traffic jams and more air pollution


[A Personal report from a Workers Solidarity Movement member, these reports are posted to the Ainriail list when first written]

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