Cork strikers say bus plan ‘privatisation by stealth’

Workers dismissive of Minister’s promise on job security under new dispensation

Hundreds of thousands of bus passengers across the country face travel disruption as a result of the industrial action. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Hundreds of thousands of bus passengers across the country face travel disruption as a result of the industrial action. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

 

Striking Bus Éireann workers in Cork this morning expressed fears that the Government’s plan to put 10 per cent of Bus Éireann routes out for tender is “privatisation by stealth”.

Around a dozen or so NBRU and Siptu members were on picket duty on a deserted Bus Éireann terminal at Parnell Place as the public appeared to have made alternative travel arrangements.

There was no sign of any tourists left stranded by the two day stoppage and the Bus Éireann workers on picket duty referred any media queries to shop stewards on picket duty at the Capwell garage.

Bus Éireann employs around 300 drivers in Cork with some two thirds of drivers being represented by the NBRU and the remaining one third being Siptu members.

Around 50 or so bus drivers drawn from both unions were on picket duty at the Capwell garage where NBRU branch chairman, Stephen McKelvey summed up the mood of the drivers.

“We honestly don’t want to be here and we don’t want to be discommoding the public on a bank holiday weekend but we were left with no alternative as a result of the government proposal.”

Siptu shop stewards, Pat Hartnett was dismissive of Minister for Transport, Paschal Donohue’s promise that no Bus Éireann or Dublin Bus driver would lose his job under the Government plan.

“The Minister at the moment is telling us that he is guaranteeing us our contracts but that’s only word of mouth – that minister could be gone in the next election in twelve months time.

NBRU national executive member Ger O ‘Donovan said that they believed that the opening up of 10 per cent of routes was a move designed to attract private bus operators from the UK.

“At the end of the day, none of the private operators here in Cork are going to get any of these routes –they need a €30 million a year turnover and they don’t have that money behind them.

“It’s going to be the big private operators from across the water – that’s the whole idea behind this – it is 10 per cent now but next year it will be 20 per cent and before we know it, 50 per cent of our routes will be gone.”

NBRU National Executive member, Leonard Kelly warned that it will be the travelling public who will ultimate suffer as the private operators will focus just on profit and not provide a social service.

He instanced the case in West Cork where Bus Éireann has dropped its Old Head of Kinsale and Garrettstown service in order to have meet NTA requirements for hourly departures from Kinsale.

“I wouldn’t make it out to Old Head of Kinsale and back into Kinsale to leave there on the hour — that’s a social service for elderly people living in outlying areas and that’s now gone,” he said.

“Privatisation is going to eliminate that social service element that Bus Éireann provides for elderly people living in isolated rural areas who are dependent on bus service for their daily needs.”