The threat of a bus strike should Bus Éireann impose pay cuts is as inevitable as the need for Bus Éireann to take radical action to restore solvency.
The company lost around €9 million last year despite subsidies of more than €40m. Bus Éireann employees, naturally and rightly, will fight to defend their conditions and argue that the scale of Government support is the issue rather than pay rates.
Their arguments are informed too by the understanding that their peers working for private bus companies are not paid anything like they are and do not enjoy comparable security or pension rights.
That argument should also be informed by the reality that they are asking taxpayers to support arrangements like premium payments the great majority of private sector workers no longer enjoy.
Bus Éireann has a social obligation to some of its customers so maybe it should have a social obligation to its workers too. That idealism however, does not offer an immediate solution. Workers will have to make concessions.
Subsidies must be reviewed too. The solution seems to exist on another plane. Yesterday Finance Minister Michael Noonan said he could not defend Apple taking advantage of “mismatches” in tax laws of different countries to minimise its tax payments.
If that immorality was confronted then it is unlikely that we would have to brace ourselves for a winter transport strike — or hollow out workers’ moderate enough living standards.
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