As someone who relies on the Bus Eireann service twice a day, 7 days a week, my daily routine to both college and work has been greatly disrupted. I became essentially stranded in Dublin after Bus Eireann called a strike on Thursday the 23rd of March, and haven’t been able to get home for almost 3 weeks. Despite this, I realise my struggle is nowhere near as great as the struggle the Bus Eireann workers have been fighting for. It is not for a pay rise. it is to maintain a basic industrial wage, maintain a vital public service and to save rural Ireland from total decimation.
Why are Bus Eireann workers striking?
I understand the general public are greatly disgruntled at the public service. And that’s what public transport is; a public service. So since when did a public service aim to make a profit? (I’ll answer my own question here; since capitalism) Bus Eireann faces a financial crisis and must implement cost cutting measure to avoid insolvency by May. The initial crisis was a €3 million issue which then jumped to 6 million and has continued to increase. How can this be? Because this has gone beyond a need to sustain a service. It has become nothing more than a competition between Bus Eireann and private operators.
It is not CEO executives who will take a pay cut to save this vital service. It is the bus drivers, who are currently on an industrial wage, according to the Bus Eireann worker and chairman of the NBRU branch in Broadstone. These drivers have been vilified by the media, as outlets falsely claim they want a rise (and lets remind ourselves, it is not a crime to want a rise, especially when you were promised one ten years ago but never received it). Drivers are facing a 30% pay cut. That’s almost €200 a week. These are people with children, with families, with mortgages, and who simply, like the majority of people, can’t afford to lose such a huge part of their salary.
Why doesn’t the government step in?
Bus Eireann workers have been neglected by the state. The only time any real notice was taken was when the Bus Eireann workers conducted a wildcat picketing of Dublin Bus and Irish Rail depots, causing a disruption for Dublin commuters. And now that 78% of Dublin Bus drivers have voted in favour to strike in solidarity with the Bus Eireann workers, suddenly, the Bus Eireann strike could be called off as early as tomorrow at lunch time. This is absolutely infuriating. It truly shows how Dublin-centric the government is. Imagine if Dublin Bus had striked for 21 consecutive days. It would never have been allowed to go on for so long. The government would have intervened.
Leo Varadkar had the audacity to suggest that Bus Eireann let the firm fold. What would we be left with then? Apart from rural towns being totally isolated? Peoples lifeline to get to school/college/work completely destroyed? What would be left? Privatisation.
Privatisation? Would that be so bad, you might ask. Yes. Yes it would. Private firms exist not as a public service, but solely to make a profit. This is echoed in their practise. Private operators in competition with Bus Eireann offer direct routes from Dublin to Galway, Dublin to Dongeal etc. Bus Eireann will stop and service local towns because it’s a public service. Private firms will not do that. They will not be able to maintain and support rural Ireland the way Bus Eireann does. The X7 Dublin to Clonmel route has continued to be loss-making. This route will likely be cut. What will people who rely on this route do then? It’s highly unlikely a private firm will operate on a route that has been loss-making.
For some bizarre reason, our Minister for Transport, Shane Ross, will not get involved in the dispute as he feels it isn’t his place. So where is his place? It would seem his place is out with socialites, being pictured in feather boas on the same night Bus Eireann representatives fight for their livelihood in the Labour Court, all while rural Ireland becomes increasingly alienated as the strike enters it’s third week.
I suppose it’s very easy for a right-winged capitalist government, who have probably never had to step foot inside a Bus Eireann bus, to turn a blind eye like they have done with so many things; like the apple tax, which would be more than enough to subsidise Bus Eireann for the next few years. It is easy to turn and look the other way when it doesn’t directly affect you.
It is also just as easy to direct your anger and frustrations at the drivers on the picket lines, as they are the face of Bus Eireann. They are the people you see. But they are not the enemy. They are working people, fighting to keep their livelihood and to save an essential public service. Direct your anger at the people who are forcing the workers out to the picket lines, at a Dublin-centric government, at a capitalistic society that values profit before people. Show solidarity to the workers, because like bus workers, nurses, teachers, Tesco workers, and Dunnes workers, it could be you who has to strike to maintain your working conditions next.
If you enjoyed this, maybe share on facebook or twitter 😉