Updated: 31/03/17 : 05:16:43
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'Blueshirts' and the bus strikers blues

By Eugene McGloin
Political Editor

BUS ÉIREANN workers enter the second week of an official strike today, Friday.

Their employers essentially want a company with little or no overtime costs.

That reminds me of Irish journalism back in the Dark Days.

Management Caper

Then, employers took great pride in telling rookies there was 'no overtime' paid in the job.

You got 'time off' but the McGuffin in that management caper was that sometimes colleagues across the country had to forfeit time off, too.

Why? Because there was nobody to do the everyday duties to cover anybody on 'time off.'

Oh, and overtime still wasn't paid in those sticking-plaster circumstances.

Yellow Pack

The theory was that you could (still) have 'time off' instead, whenever. Variations on the theme were well known up and down the country.

Long before Quinnsworth (now Tesco) introduced the ''yellow pack'' to its shelves the principle (principle???) was well known to many Irish workers.

All of which is why I fear for our State bus services, local, regional and national.

Rightly, workers in Bus Éireann see the end product of their management's current drive would deliver ''yellow pack'' conditions of employment.

So much for Europe.....and for European standards of law on workers' conditions.

Lip Service

Surely the chinless wonders of Europe have some clauses contained in EU capital grants given to this State; say, clauses prescriptive of how workers must be treated.

Irish Governments and statutory Service Level Agreements were, and probably still are, prescriptive in that way when they grant monies. 

Meanwhile, the Government gives us plenty of guff and lip service to the European ideal blah blah. 

'Happy 60th Birthday to EU' and all that. Piss-ups, parties -- and propaganda -- all paid for by Jo Soap. 

The Cabinet feels (very) comfortable taking its non-intervention line too, because of European competition law.

Transport Minister Shane Ross might as well have stayed in RIo last summer.

He has shown, or offered, zilch capacity for ideas/input on how this particular 'problem to be solved.'

Arguably, Ross doesn't have much of the the skill-set needed to 'think out loud' and prod or prompt progress in this dispute. 

Generally, if politics was a job filled by interview with independently verifiable metrics of 'essential' and 'desirable' there would be permanent vacancies.

Remember that old comedy script by Jimmy Durante, old 'Schnozzle' himself.

Durante's sketch was about 'two gentlemen'.....which, when counted, had a shortage of 'one gentlemen.'

Daily Users

Politics is like that: They'd never fill the quotas if their selection for post was solely on merit.

There is a lot of anger among daily bus users like myself that we don't have a Sligo town service.

 We don't even have a 'shout-out ' from local politicians about how a solution should be evolved.

Presumably, too, Shane Ross is included in that clarion call earlier this week to 'give the Blueshirts the mother of all bus strikes.'

That remains to be seen. And some Other Stuff which is already to be seen is worrisome.

Namely, the final outcome and settlement of this current strike will likely see major cuts to services and staff numbers.

If that (likely) circumstance comes to pass the Bus Éireann bosses can legitimately scrawl 'QED' in the settlement column.

It remains unclear, as of now, how a settlement will be evolved. 

Most Bitter

You have to go back four decades to find the most bitter public services strike.

That post and phones strike of early 1979 also sowed the seeds of destruction in Jack Lynch's (invincible) leadership.

The lurking menace of post office closures could be the issue to persuade Jo Soap to protest, and with great public support.