Yesterday Unite announced that its members in Bus Éireann have voted unanimously in favour of strike action. The news follows the company’s threatened unilateral implementation of a drastic cuts package on February 20th. Tomorrow the unions involved will be meeting in Unite offices to agree on a course of action in response to the forced implementation of cuts.
Unite Regional Officer Willie Quigley said:
T[he] ballot result reflects the anger felt by Unite members and other Bus Éireann workers at the company’s behaviour during the past number of months, and in particular the past fortnight. Their refusal to engage in an arranged hearing at the Labour Court in December has been compounded by a deliberate strategy of selective media leaks and threats designed to intimidate the workforce and confuse the public.
Bus Éireann provides the vast majority of bus services in Ireland. This includes intercity, local and city routes in Cork, Limerick and Galway and school bus routes across the country. Over the last couple of years there have been moves to privatise the most profitable of these routes and here in lies the cause of the dilemma faced by Bus Éireann today. While some will argue that competition is the breeder of efficiency and lower fares, we have seen countless times that that is simply not true. Subsidies paid often increase under private ownership, fares increase with no improvement in service, and after all that most people support public ownership of transport services in the first place.
Good public transport systems are an essential for any modern country. Buses and trains are more space and energy-efficient when compared to private vehicles and both are integral to sustainability, improving mobility and rural connectivity. Public transport is often the only means of transport for the poorer citizens of a country. For senior citizens, people with disabilities and children, public transport is also their main means of transport. Public transport is supposed to grant greater access to education, health care and recreation that would be available to a person otherwise. It connects a community and country.
That is why it must remain in public ownership. Many of the routes Bus Éireann runs are not, and are unlikely to ever be, profitable. No private company would ever willingly bid on or provide a similar quality service on them. As the profitable routes were chopped up and sold off bit by bit, Bus Éireann has had less and less cash coming in to support the smaller less profitable routes. These are the areas that need these services the most but will be the ones to lose them forever once they are gone.
Leaks to local media are reporting the threatened closure of some garages – causing great concern to workers and local communities.
Our members’ growing anger at management’s behaviour has been exacerbated by the Minister’s persistent refusal to take a proactive role in this crisis and convene a meeting of all stakeholders.
Neither management nor the Minister should be in any doubt that the unions will be resolute in defending the interests of our members and the travelling public
Willie Quigley concluded.