The first of many public meetings, organised to oppose the privatisation of Dublin Bus, took place on Tuesday night (10/06/2003) in the Teachers Club, on Parnell Square West, and BUSRAGE was there to report on proceedings. Speakers were Mick Faherty (NBRU asst general secretary), Bill McCamley (SIPTU CIE director worker), Ciaran Nolan (from UCD) and David Manningham (TGWU, a bus driver from Norwich, England). Bill McCamley gave the low down on what privatisation would mean, in terms of daily operations, with Mick Faherty giving some of the background to the issue and explaining some of the attempts in the past, by previous governments (including one with Seamus Brennan as transport minister!), to break up CIE.
One of the main messages that they tried to get across was that privatisation would *not* mean increased competition, far from it. As said on BUSRAGE before, privatisation means the handing over of existing routes to private companies, they will *not* face competition on these routes, and existing monopoly situation will continue, there will be *no* change in this.
On the subject of monopolies, Mick Faherty made in interesting point, Dublin Bus have already agreed to share the roads with private operators, on the basis that for every route that Dublin Bus would start, a private operator may also start one (this is referred to internally as the one-for-one deal). This was agreed as part of the Public Transport Partnership Forum, a forum it seems Brennan has simply used to announce his changes (some ‘partnership’!) and promptly ignored. There is no longer any talk of the one-for-one deal from Brennan, and he now accuses the unions of intransigence.
David Manningham was quite interesting and spoke at length about how privatisation changed public transport for the worse in the UK. Large bus companies came in and squeezed small players out of the market, and as soon as they were gone, prices soared and timetables suffered. The private firms make very minimal investments in their fleets, being more interested in dividends for shareholders and large salaries for directors, so buses are older and stay on the road longer.
He made that point the far from lower costs, privatisation has caused costs for the UK government to rise, as they continue to subvent the costs of the commercial operators.
We heard some health and safety horror stories, in one case a bus in need of repair caused 3 drivers to end up in hospital due to their inhaling of fumes, the bus company simply didn’t want to take it off the road and kept sending drivers out in it, even though they had already been informed that the bus was damaged. In another case , a driver ended up in the dock after a wheel flew off his bus in traffic. Luckily the judge knew the score and refused to convict the driver, demanding that the firms owners be charged instead (they weren’t, of course).
Ciaran Nolan spoke about the effects of privatisation in general, and none of it sounded good. Similar points to other speakers were made, with the emphasis put on the fact that the private bus companies who would end up carving the Dublin market up between themselves would more than likely be large multinationals who would quickly use their position to put small local operators out of business.
After the main speakers there were some points from the floor with speakers from various unions (transport and non transport), political parties (Sinn Fein, The Communists and a Christian party), and local action groups (Dublin Cycling Campaign and various others). The general consensus from these speakers was one of broad agreement with the main point of the meeting (nobody spoke in favour of privatisation) and the mood was to get as many unions and groups of people together to act collectively. A taxi driver (who was not speaking on behalf of his union) offered to speak to his colleagues and try to get taxi drivers to come out in sympathy with the bus drivers, in the form of simultaneous strike action.
The meeting adjourned, more are planned around the city and announcments are being made over the coming days in regard to future action by the unions in the form of industrial action.