Tomorrow Dublin Bus goes on strike. So failing a last minute resolution of the dispute I have to find alternative means of getting to work.
I know this industrial dispute is over pay. That really is inevitable I suppose. My knowledge of the exact gripes is cloudy. I have heard rumour that Dublin Bus drivers have not had a pay increase since 2008 – at the start of the economic crash – and that the National Bus and Rail Union, and the SIPTU union are seeking an immediate 6% pay increase (promised but postponed in 2009)and a 15% pay increase over the next three years, for their Dublin Bus driving members. The company is refusing to talk . So tomorrow is the first of three, two day work stoppages during the month of September.
Having never been a member of a trades unions I have no idea how realistic the demands are. The 6% immediate increase seems reasonable – the cost of living has certainly risen more than 6% in the last eight years. As for the 15% over the next three? Well I imagine they are aiming for higher than what they think they will get, and will settle for 10%.
I want them to be offered this. People moan about them holding the workforce to ransom. And of course they are. Isn’t that the whole purpose of a strike? To withdraw necessary services to achieve certain goals. Over 400,000 people rely on these men and women to get them to work on a daily basis. It’s not their fault the public transport network is so underfunded and basic. And unlike the tram drivers (who recently settled their strike action) the bus drivers have to deal with the joy and the horror that is Joe Public on a face to face basis. The tram drivers – whose strike I also supported – sit on their thrones at the front of their carriage and push a button.
The bus drivers have to deal with all the other traffic on the road – those pedestrians and drivers and cyclists. Then there are the passengers – most of whom are pleasant but several of whom are fairly feral and seem to be the missing link (and I don’t just mean Bruiser).
Dublin Bus is owned by the state. The state recently decided to appeal a European Commission ruling, because they don’t want to claim 13 billion euros from (Rotten) Apple in unpaid taxes.
Ireland being a tax haven, allows multinationals to launder their Europe wide profits through name-plate companies in Ireland. (Rotten) Apple is not quite a name-plate company as it employs thousands in Cork, but last year paid 0.0325% tax on their Europe wide profits that they laundered through Ireland. Europe decided that this was illegal. Now Europe’s motives are not in Ireland’s interest – it wants to claim some of that loot itself. But if the Irish government is declaring that it doesn’t want this money, then it cannot pretend that there is not plenty of cash to pay the bus drivers.
Actually with 13 billion, they could also solve the homelessness crisis gripping the capital, build a metro on the northside of the city; an airport link; improve the M1 motorway; build a motorway between Galway, Limerick, Cork and Waterford; and fix the health service. For starters.
Sadly I expect them to allow the strike to go ahead. They represent the banks. We all know this. But we keep electing the same old neo-liberal cowboy gangsters.
I’m feeling quite mellow about the strike if the truth be told. This is – in large part – due to the fact that I am graciously accepting a lift to work from a French colleague tomorrow. National stereotypes are bad, but as she is French, she knows all about strikes. I hope she will follow her country’s tradition and down tools and join in a solidarity protest tomorrow. I need a day off too.