It is always difficult when Bus Companies are faced with the dilemma of trying to manage huge financial reductions to keep the business alive against a strong and well-organized trade union whose members will without doubt bear the brunt of the cuts. Sadly bus users in Ireland have already had to put up with a succession of strikes that have effectively left the people feeling angry and betrayed.
The reality is that the state-owned bus Company basically allowed the trade union to become the dominant force, indeed the salaries paid to the bus drivers was one of the highest hourly rates in the world. Indeed the position is now so bad that the Company have to find cuts of 12 million Euros and if they do not do so soon then they claim that they might be out of business by May of this year.
This is now a situation where the Company are between a rock and a hard place. If they do not make the cuts then there is no Company. The option is to sell either all of it or parts of it off. If that happens then the union will be in a very different place, as no new owners are going to maintain the present pay and conditions as they are simply too high.
Having been once part of a nationalized Bus Company and been part of the privatization process and seen the establishment of the big groups and all that goes with it. The one thing that I can say is that the first thing to go are the inflated salaries, otherwise you are simply going to fail and why would you do that. Therefore it has now got to a stage where the management will do what they believe that they have to do and impose significant reductions in the pay that they give to the drivers.
To be fair, the working conditions that the drivers have enjoyed have been frankly amazing with drivers on average being paid for a 9.4 hours per day with 1.6 hours being paid at a premium overtime rate. when actually they only drive for 5.5 hours on scheduled services. This situation would never exist in the UK and it is indicative of a system that has effectively allowed the union to dominate the pay irrespective of the inefficiency of doing so.
So now the union are saying that they only have one course of action left open to them and that is to go out on strike, and that will just make the situation worse as the state-owned Company will decide that actually there is only one option left and that is to sell the Company. And once that happens the drivers will have to face the harsh reality that they will receive an hourly rate that will reflect the average pay scales seen elsewhere.