Comment: Transport share scheme proposal worthy of consideration

“It was out of left field, even his officials were looking panicked when he said it.”

This was the reaction when Transport Minister Shane Ross departed from his script in a meeting with the transport unions, and suggested a share scheme for workers in the CIE companies.

Ross is not your conventional minister and holds officials with a weary and wary contempt.

A long-time critic of State bureaucracy, Ross has found himself politically responsible for some of the companies he used to attack most.

CIE, and particularly Irish Rail, were constant targets for Ross in his Seanad and Sunday Independent days.

He bemoaned their monopoly positions, their drain on the taxpayer, their wasteful practices, their treatment of whistleblowers. So, in proposing a share option scheme for CIE employees, Ross has thrown a large and feisty cat among the pigeons.

“I think there is potential in saying to them, those in all three companies, ‘Look, you have the base subvention which will continue and increase, but if over and above that you have a synthetic profit, you start making money, there is no reason why you shouldn’t share in that’,” he told me.

Why this proposal and why now?

“Because morale was very bad in the companies a year ago, during the strikes. We have got to increase it,” he explained.

In essence, he is looking at a way of increasing the pay of workers in those companies without dramatically increasing the burden on the State’s coffers.

Flat pay increases are expensive as they have to factor in requisite and comparable pension increases.

So bonus payments and allowances have often been the solution in the past to addressing such issues in sectors like the gardaí, in teaching, and in the HSE.

Ross said his motivation is to improve morale in CIE, but in particularly Bus Éireann, where the existence of staff over the past decade has not been a cheery one.

He is also conscious that were he not to move, in an expanding economy, he, as minister, could find himself having to tackle another bout of strikes, which cause chaos to hundreds of thousands of commuters and travellers.

The reality is that Ross will need the backing of Paschal Donohoe, the finance minister, if he hopes for this proposal to become a reality — my information so far is that Donohoe and his officials are less than impressed.

Not only does Donohoe not like to cede control of such major financial decisions to anyone, he and his officials are naturally cautious about approving any likely future drains on the public purse.

But by getting New Era, the Government’s inner economic group, to examine the possibilities of it, it is clear this is more than just a ‘kite flyer’ off the top of the head The initial reaction of unions has been one of cautious welcome, insofar as to say they think the spirit of the proposal has merit and should be worked towards.

While some of the unions and many others have sought to paint Ross as the pantomime villain, his proposal is worthy of some consideration.

More on this topic

Calls for safety screens on Bus Éireann coaches to protect drivers Calls for safety screens on Bus Éireann coaches to protect drivers

Bus Éireann workers expected to ask for pay rise one year on from Labour Court dealBus Éireann workers expected to ask for pay rise one year on from Labour Court deal

Bus Éireann rostering issue resolved, say unionsBus Éireann rostering issue resolved, say unions

Hopes of 'sustainable future' for Bus Éireann as unions vote to accept pay cutsHopes of 'sustainable future' for Bus Éireann as unions vote to accept pay cuts


Four graduates tell Siobhan Howe how their fine art degree has influenced their approach to their working life.What use is a degree in fine art? Four graduates answer the question

Terry Gilliam tells Esther McCarthy about the mystery woman who helped him to finally get his Don Quixote film made after 30 yearsTerry Gilliam: Back in the saddle again

Twitch will no longer be the home of esports for Call of Duty, Overwatch and Hearthstone, with those games (and more) going to YouTube instead.Violence in the stream: Big changes for esports

That may say more about how the media treats flaws and beauty than it says about Alicia Keys herself, but nevertheless, it was refreshing at the time to see someone say no to the Hollywood expectations of beauty.The Skin Nerd: Unlocking Alicia Keys’ secrets to gorgeous skin

More From The Irish Examiner