Busmen resume their old ways
The army lorries moved in to help the footsore Dubliners on the Friday and the buses were back on the road the following Tuesday. So much for negotiation. re
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negotiation, public meetings and voting procedures.
One detects a certain wry cynicism on the part of the public. And the public's hopes that a strike lasting nine weeks and losing 188,000 mandays) would have produced an efficient and courteous service seem to be ill-founded.
The queues are back at the bus stops. The waiting passengers arc glum, resigned and patient. The busmen seem to he back to their old cavalier ways of pulling out when people are running for the bus and sailing past a stop if they feel like it.
These knights of the road treat their passengers as superfluous factors' with whom they occasionally come into contact.
There are exceptions of course, and honourable ones. A friend of mine is still recounting the time about a year ago when, having spotted a bus. she was trying to sprint in the pouring rain to the next stop with a small child of two struggling in her arms.
The bus pulled up between stoM for her and she clambered gratefully aboard. She still wears that look of gratitude whenever the busmen are mentioned, Although the public transport system is back in service, nothing has been settled. No doubt the passengers will have to bear the brunt of the busmen's ill-feeling.
Part of the back-to-work move was the agreement that those who wanted to work a five-day, 40-hour week could do, as also could those who wanted to work a six-day, 40hour week.
They would go back to work — while the seemingly endless negotiations over the schedules are taking place. It all seems a pretty fragile agreement, and a lot of people are muttering they were better off with the army lorries and thumbing. There were certainly less traffic snarlups.
As for the motorists, they are hack in their own little world of four-wheeled isolation.
A reminder that we are in fact in a Catholic country is the continuing little stream of letters in the national press thanking motorists for their generosity and help during the bus strike and more often than not ending "Mass will be offered for their intentions."
Creeping up behind CIE (the National Transport Company) is another little problem. About 1.500 skilled engineering workers are on an unoffical overtime ban and work-to-rule. Given time, all buses and trains will slowly grind to a halt as the need for maintenance and servicing builds up. The dispute has been going on since June 10, starting at Inchicore and spreading to other depots and workshops throughout the counts. The men want incremental salary scales similar to those paid to recruitment grade CIE clerks.
The company offered a pay scale of f35 a week rising over 10 years to £44. This scale would include payments which would fall due under the national agreement. But this is not to the men's liking as they would lose their cost of living increase which could be 6 per cent or 7 per cent.
They also don't like the idea of their numbers being reduced by 292 (a provision put forward
by CIE) through early and normal retirement. They point out
that a few years ago 1,800 people were employed in the workshops and now there are about 1,500.
CIE believes that the workto-rule is a breach of the current national agreement and has ask ed the Employer-Labour Conference for a ruling and is hoping that a return to normal working will be recommended. With all this uncertainty and inconvenience, the last thing one would expect is an increase in fares. But life is full of little surprises. and an increase in fares it is — 20 per cent is the figure. But before the exasperated public could dance in rage on their bus tickets the Government stopped us all in our tracks by pointing out to us that they had in fact saved the fare-paying public 11.5 million. Here's how it works: The' National Prices Commission, in its April report, recommended an increase of 33 per cent to meet increased costs and to
keep the deficit to £13.5 million,. which the Government said was the maximum it would be prepared to meet.
Obviously a 33 per cent increase would not he easy to ex tract from CIE's passengers. So they have only been asked for 20 per cent. Who pays the remaining 13 per cent? The tax payer! And we are reminded that this does not include the cost of the strike. That little bill will be presented later on in the I year. Mr O'Leary, Minister for Labour, speaking at the Congress of Trade Unions' summer course in Cork last week. may be able to solve the labour relations problems. He outlined how workers in State companies will he enabled to elect representatives to their boards.
He has presented proposals to the Government for industrial democracy in these companies and he is about to submit a comprehensive programme to the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. From there, legislation will be enacted to give it effect.
The Minister's proposals will not be of an experimental nature. There will he no question of the process stopping at a particular point and of returning to a situation where workers had no direct voice in the boardrooms.
He stressed that there must he an open and inquiring mind on the representation procedures. There must be a rational, non-dogmatic approach.
He would envisage that arrangements would be progressively extended through the State companies so that at each stage experience might he examined and the programme adapted where necessary.
Mr O'Leary emphasised that trade unions must have a central role in the election of directors, this was in keeping with the realities of Irish indtistry. He felt that it would be better if directors were elected within the present single-hoard system, as he had mixed feelings about the desirability of two-tier boards.
Experience with the two-tier hoards had shown that increasingly effective control passed into the hands of the management board. This view could be found repeatedly in recent discussions with EEC institutions.
If worker participation is found to be effective in the State companies and if the workers are satisfied with it, perhaps we will see the end of strikes which seem to be divisive of the whole community and incidentally leave everybody worse off — the strikers, management and the rest of the public.