Bus union warns of ‘major unrest’ if more services privatised

NBRU says it will vehemently oppose more routes being taken from Dublin Bus

Members of Siptu and the NBRU picketing outside Busaras in Dublin earlier this year. File photograph: Dave Meehan/The Irish Times

Members of Siptu and the NBRU picketing outside Busaras in Dublin earlier this year. File photograph: Dave Meehan/The Irish Times

 

A bus workers’ union has warned of “major industrial unrest” across the public transport system if privatisation is extended to more routes.

The National Bus and Rail Union was responding to the announcement that Dublin Bus has lost control of 24 bus routes serving suburbs around the city to private operator Go-Ahead.

The results of a tendering competition for 10 per cent of Dublin Bus routes were announced by the National Transport Authority (NTA) on Thursday.

NBRU general secretary Dermot O’Leary said: “Despite the fact that Dublin Bus (with the vital support of our members) has been hitting all the stringent performance related targets set down by the NTA, this Government has decided to pump significant amounts of taxpayers money into the bank accounts of multinational operators.”

Mr O’Leary accepted that an agreement was struck in 2015, following a NBRU-led two day dispute, which included the initiation of High Court proceedings against the then minister challenging the privatisation of publicly-owned bus services.

He said it was nonetheless disappointing that Dublin Bus had been unsuccessful in the “so-called tendering process”.

It appeared, Mr O’Leary said, that the NTA and the Department of Transport had decided “that workers’ rights are up for grabs and can be used, Dutch auction style, to help towards bidding for state contracts, the price of labour should not be used to win such contracts”.

“The NBRU will focus our attention on ensuring that our affected members on the privatised routes will not be forced to move from their current workplace, we will also move to recruit those new entrants that will work for the private operator to ensure that they will be properly represented and work with them towards achieving similar terms and conditions as those workers we represent in the State-owned companies,” Mr O’Leary said.

“This Tory-lite Government, disgracefully supported by the rag bag Independent Alliance, would be wise to restrict this foray into the privatisation of publicly-owned transport services to the routes identified, moving beyond will not only be vehemently opposed by the NBRU, but will inevitably lead to major industrial unrest across the public transport system.”

The Green Party said today that current levels of customer service must be maintained on a number of orbital bus routes.

West Dublin councillor Roderic O’Gorman said the most important thing was that the NTA and the Government ensure that there was no deterioration of the standard of services on the routes that had been put out to tender.

“The real test of this tendering process is whether services for commuters actually improve on these routes. As a daily user of the 17a, I’ll be watching closely to ensure there is no decrease in the frequency or reliability of the service,” he said.

“Around a third of the routes that will be operated by Go-Ahead pass through the Dublin 15 area. While most of the journeys are orbital, rather than going directly into the city centre, they provide a vital link between the outer suburbs and key locations such as the Blanchardstown Town Centre, Dublin City University, Beaumont Hospital and Connolly Hospital. They are especially important for students and elderly people.”

Mr O’Gorman said that while Dublin Bus had lost the tender, it was vital that it redeployed the buses previously on these routes to its remaining routes where they could enhance the level of service provided.

“This can be done as part of the ongoing BusConnects review of bus routes across the city, which provides an opportunity to make commuting by bus attractive to a much larger number of people. However, this review requires increased levels of investment in public transport by the Government in order to be a success.”

Fine Gael TD for Dublin South West, Colm Brophy, welcomed the progress in opening up the Dublin bus market to competition and said it was “great news for commuters and long overdue”.

“Fine Gael campaigned on a policy of increased choice and competition for bus passengers in the last election. We committed to this and we are now delivering on this commitment in government.”

The 23 routes to be privatised are all serving outer suburbs of the greater Dublin area and none go into the city centre.

Among the routes in question are:

17 Rialto to Blackrock

17a Blanchardstown Centre to Kilbarrack

18 Palmerstown(Old Lucan Road)to Sandymount

33a Swords to Balbriggan

33b Swords to Portrane

45a Dún Laoghaire (Rail Station)to Ballywaltrim

59 Dún Laoghaire to Mackintosh Park

63 Dún Laoghaire to Kilternan

75 The Square Tallaght to Dún Laoghaire

76 Chapelizod to Tallaght (The Square)