In August, at the end of the tendering process for 10 per cent of Dublin bus routes, two bidders remained: Dublin Bus itself and the British transport corporation Go-Ahead. It’s no surprise that, despite Dublin Bus putting in a very good tender and meeting all the criteria, the private British company got the “go-ahead.”
As a result, a tenth of public transport routes in our capital city will now be in the hands of private capital.
This is the agenda being pursued by all the major political parties and many independents in our political system. The plan was designed by Fianna Fáil and the Green Party, implemented by Fine Gael and the Labour Party, and completed under the present arrangement in Dáil Éireann.
Let us not forget that Irish Water and their plans for the privatisation of that resource followed the same route.
As Connolly wrote, “‘governments in capitalist society are but committees of the rich to manage the affairs of the capitalist class.” It doesn’t matter which party is in power: the result will always be in the interest of big business and the owners of capital.
Go-Ahead has been consistently voted Britain’s worst-performing transport company by its passengers. Since they took over railway services in Britain, passengers have suffered from increased delays, higher fares, overcrowding, and cancellations. At the same time profits soared by 31 per cent in the last two years, to £25.7 million, while the chief executive officer’s pay rose by 10½ per cent, to £2.163 million a year.
This is what privatisation is about: handing over services to the profiteers, whose only aim is profit—not to supply a decent transport service. The state abandons its responsibility to its citizens and hands it over to those who finance, run and control the political parties.
Despite all the publicity about improvements with competition, privatisation never leads to more frequent, cheaper or better services for the public—quite the opposite, in fact. Everything is geared towards profit, which will inevitably also lead to workers’ wages being slashed and a lessening of conditions of employment—but of course not for the CEOs and their golden circle.
The trade unions bear some of the responsibility too, as they agreed to this process a number of years ago. Under the pressure of “austerity” they were forced into “getting the best available at the time for their members.”
This narrative must be made a thing of the past. They did manage, however, against the odds, to block full privatisation; but this agreement opens the door to it in time, unless we organise and fight back.
But times have changed since then, with recent victories for workers and their unions in Luas, Dublin Bus, and Bus Éireann, and the heroic fight-back by workers in Tesco and Dunne’s Stores. It is time the balance was tipped back in favour of workers. The 1990 Industrial Relations Act needs to be repealed, along with all the other anti-union legislation. We need to restore the weapons of our class—full union rights and the right to strike, when and where we see fit—which will allow workers to stop the neo-liberal agenda of privatisation, pay cuts and deregulation from destroying this country of ours.