Ireland: Dublin bus workers’ strike ends with concessions

”Strike an important milestone” – John McCamley, SIPTU shop steward

Socialist Party leaflet (pdf) supporting Dublin bus workers. It includes an article by Joe Higgins which appeared in the Irish Daily Mail.

Dublin bus workers’ strike ends with concessions

Between 12-18 November, 450 Dublin Bus workers at the Harristown depot in north Dublin took official strike action against management attempts to force through changes in working conditions.

The dispute began when management reneged on a previous agreement made when the Harristown deport opened in 2004; that all routes would begin, break and finish in the depot and not in the city centre, as is the case with other garages. This was in recognition of the fact that Harristown, unlike the other more centrally located depots, is 11km outside the city centre.

The new arrangement would mean that drivers would be forced to park their car in Harristown and take a bus to the city to pick up their own bus and to do the same at the end of their shift, therefore lengthening the working week, without extra pay.

Dublin bus workers

Socialist Party member and SIPTU shop steward in Harristown, John McCamley, said: “Even though the new arrangements would only affect a small number of workers, the drivers realised this was the start of a general attack on our rights and conditions. Once the company started suspending members, we implemented all-out strike action.

Dublin bus workers

“No one wanted to go on strike six weeks before Christmas. Most of the lads have families and mortgages, but we were left with no choice.”

Pickets were placed on the Harristown depot, impressively manned throughout the dispute, involving many migrant workers and, on 14 November, a demonstration of 400, including many drivers from other garages, took place.

Unity and high morale

The unity and high morale surprised everyone, including management, who after agreeing to go to the Labour Court, were forced to give important concessions. The deal emphasises the voluntary aspects of implementing the changed arrangements and other existing routes cannot be altered unless 80% of drivers agree. Also, the allowance for travelling time will be extended.

John McCamley continues: “Whilst not achieving all the demands, the strike nonetheless is an important milestone. Management has been forced back on implementing a generalised attack on conditions. Unity between Irish and non-national drivers has been strengthened. The strike also shows the need for bus workers across the city to unite and prepare for future attacks, particularly privatisation and deregulation. Recent events in Aer Lingus [the main airline in Ireland] show the need for democratic campaigning unions to defend the interests of workers. Events in Harristown show how to take on the bosses and win concessions.”

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November 2007