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Meeting with minister of Transport

21 November 2013

TSSA and the other unions including representatives for ICTU met with Minister Varadkar and Minister Kelly. All unions expressed their views on the recent announcement from the NTA concerning the 10% tendering process (privatising) with a target date of 2016.

 

The Ministers in their response to the Unions did not impress TSSA, even after the unions pointed out that the experience in other countries has proven that privatising leads to increased fares, loss of passengers, jobs and an increase in subvention that protects the profits of the private operators.

The unions expressed concerns to both Ministers about job security and the issue of community reliance in both urban and rural Ireland on a proper bus service. Under the NTA scheme, staff could be transferred from your respective company to the private companies under transfer of undertakings-protection of employees (TUPE). This could result in cuts in wages and risks to pension arrangements. The introduction of private operators would lead to “a race to the bottom” in terms of wages and conditions of our members. The Ministers did not give any clear answers on this issue. It is still our concern that no protection to your current terms and conditions will be provided for in any transfer to a private operator.

When requested to pause the process so that the unions could have consultations and dialog both Ministers responded that on legal advice they were being compliant with the law and EU regulations and that private contractors could challenge a pause in the high court. The unions expressed their position that this was not the case and that the government had chosen to interpret the law in this way driven by an ideological view. Indeed recently the minister responsible for transport in the North of Ireland recently came out expressing that he would oppose any privatisation of transport and that he believed that he was in full compliance with EU regulations in doing so.

The unions pointed out that both Bus companies have constantly hit the (KPI) as set by the NTA. The unions explained that both companies have a very high standard of service, and why try “fix something that was not broken”. The unions reminded the minister that TSSA along with the other unions had been engaged in cost recovery talks with the two bus companies with a view of ensuring the viability of the companies. Our members engaged in this process so that the viability of the companies would ensure that current service levels would continue and ensure job security going forward. This proposal only taints the industrial relations environment and makes any future agreements on cost recovery in the bus companies more difficult.

The Minister expressed the view that he would be arranging another meeting with the unions in January or early February 2014.

All unions agreed that they were not very confident with the current proposals from the NTA and both Ministers responses did not impress us. All unions agree that the public at large would have to be educated about the dangers of privatisation and mobilised because any transfer of services will in fact negatively affect the community at large.

As a union, we will need to organise and campaign both in our workplaces and in the community to fight the proposals that will see attacks on job security, terms and conditions and Bus services that delivery for all in society.

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