Buala Bus

jim larkin

This week our ire is directed at the Bus Eireann staff who went on strike in response to the company implementing seemingly “unreasonable” Labour Court recommendations that they work an extra 3 hours a week, cut Sunday overtime payments from x 2 to x 1.5, take 3 days fewer holidays a year (for the next 3 years) and reduce self-certified sick leave from 4 to 2 days a year.

Bus Eireann passenger numbers have been steadily decreasing since 2008. During the same period driver numbers continued to increase. The company is losing €16m a year and 71% of the company’s costs comprise of wages and fuel so it’s the natural place to look for efficiencies.

In the private sector, the response of a loss-making business would be a programme of retrenchment, reform of work practices and ultimately pay or job cuts.

But not in the fantasy world of the public or semi-state sectors where losses and pension deficits are subsidised by the taxpayer and overpaid workers cling to their entitlements like rats on a sinking ship. A Deloitte report into costs and efficiencies of bus services found that over a 4 year period, €2.5m in “disturbance payments” were paid to drivers, typically to compensate for the inconvenience in changes to their customary routes or moving from one garage to another.

The strikers, who compare themselves to the heroes of the 1913 Lockout, showed their true colours when they prevented a private GoBe bus service from operating in Cork, intimidating the driver and forcing passengers to disembark.

But the drivers should not be unfairly singled out. Bus Eireann sports a sum total of 384 executive and clerical staff and 165 supervisors. One can only wonder why you need 384 suits to support a bus service. Perhaps there’s an entire HR division dedicated to administering disturbance payments…  Dublin Bus and Iarnod Eireann claim similar numbers. It should be possible to share these executive and clerical staff across the three organisations.

Whether the present government have the political will to tackle the problem, it’s clear that this time round the strikers will not have the support of the vast majority of the Irish public.

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