The attack on bus workers and rural communities continues

Statement by the Communist Party of Ireland 
11 April 2017

The talks at the Workplace Relations Commission between the unions and management in Bus Éireann have broken down, and the dispute has now been referred to the Labour Court. The company was not in a position to put forward a proposal, though the unions identified €18 million in potential savings. 
     This package would also have included up to 240 redundancies and massive changes to work practices. Changing the way workers would be paid was discussed, instead of various rates for overtime, Sunday and rest days, etc. A new composite rate would be introduced; this was agreed in principle, but no agreement on an actual rate was forthcoming. 
     Despite the unions’ willingness to put all these savings and changes to the workers, this was still not enough for the company. This exposes the fact that the company is hiding behind this phoney crisis to bring in its ultimate goal of privatising the public transport system and a race to the bottom in pay and conditions. 
     The Bus Éireann management left the talks a couple of times to update their paymasters on progress and to look for further instructions. The unions were aware of unidentified “advisers” being in the WRC at the final stage of the talks. The company was not willing to negotiate on cuts to these advisers’ pay (€100,000+ per annum) as part of the process. 
     Despite what many commentators have been saying, the minister, Shane Ross, is doing his job, that of driving the EU’s, the Irish state’s and the present Government’s privatisation agenda. He is doing exactly what he was put in that position for: to drive out the unions, to undermine the state service, and to open up public transport to privatisation. He is doing a great job at not engaging with the dispute, despite huge pressure for him to do so. A weaker minister would have backed down by now; but Ross is doing exactly what the Government and the state want him to do, and pay him to do. 
     Make no mistake: this assault on rural Ireland is due to the tactical underfunding of the service, as part of a wider privatisation effort. The vicious cycle of underfunding, attacks on workers and closures is a strategic one to pave the way for the cream of the bus routes to be handed to private operators and the backbone of our communities to be shattered. 
     Only by breaking this cycle can we avoid abandoning the elderly, the unemployed, the disabled, swathes of rural Ireland and anyone else who relies on our bus services, not to mention the workers who keep it all running.