Bus privatisation will ‘inevitably’ mean industrial unrest

Siptu says proposals for some bus routes are flawed and a bad deal for passengers and staff

Siptu  organiser Owen Reidy said  members in Bus Éireann and Dublin Bus had made contributions to two restructuring plans which had yielded significant savings in recent years.   Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Siptu organiser Owen Reidy said members in Bus Éireann and Dublin Bus had made contributions to two restructuring plans which had yielded significant savings in recent years. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Tue, Jul 15, 2014, 15:45

Plans by the National Transport Authority (NTA) to put out to tender up to 10 per cent of the routes currently operated by Bus Éireann and Dublin Bus will inevitably lead to industrial unrest at the companies, the trade union Siptu has warned.

Siptu sought an early meeting with new Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe as part of its campaign against the proposals, which it described as “flawed” and representing a bad deal for passengers and staff.

The union’s utilities and construction division organiser, Owen Reidy, said Siptu members in Bus Éireann and Dublin Bus had made contributions to two restructuring plans which had yielded significant savings in recent years.

“Our members didn’t do this to then see the National Transport Authority unravel the public transport system. We will do all we have to in order to defend what we consider to be citizens’ right to a decent public transport system with proper labour standards for its workers. We look forward to engaging with the new Minister on this matter.

“As the largest union organising and representing workers in the three CIE companies, we believe that it is essential to engage in discussions with the new Minister on this flawed plan which the National Transport Authority intends to implement.”

Mr Reidy said that following meetings with the NTA it was clear there were gaps in its plan and that it had not been clearly thought through.

“We want to impress upon the new Minister that to proceed with the plan as is will be a bad deal for the taxpayer, for the travelling public and also for the workers in both CIE companies.

“It is critical that the Government learn from previous mistakes such as the privatising of the waste collection service. In that case what has resulted is an inconsistent and fragmented service for customers. Is this really the route we wish to follow with our public transport system? The current National Transport Authority plan would impede citizens’ right to have a decent, regulated and integrated transport system. It would also inevitably lead to industrial unrest.”

The proposals are also being opposed by another large union at the State-owned bus operator, the National Bus and Rail Union.

The Government has agreed to open up certain routes to competition in order to comply with EU directives, and the NTA announced it was opening some 10 per cent of the routes operated by the semi-State companies to competitive tender. Contracts are to be awarded next year, with services to commence in 2016.

In Dublin, orbital routes rather than city centre services - such as those between Blackrock and Rialto, and Chapelizod and the Square shopping centre in Tallaght - will be put out to tender.

Bus Éireann routes earmarked to be put out to tender include commuter services from Dublin to Tullamore, Portlaoise and Kildare, as well as a number of routes in Waterford city.

Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann will be able to compete for the tenders when the competition begins.

The warning of potential industrial action affecting bus services comes at a time when the prospect of strikes on the country’s railways has increased as part of a row over cost-reduction proposals.