Crushing inequality, the threat of nuclear annihilation, a Dub that is inexplicably Taoiseach despite a large part of the country believing him to be one of the worst choices for the job and two major strikes in a year; it feels like the 80s.
When the bus strikes happened earlier this year, I was annoyed, I had things to do, and the only way to do them involved public transport, and because I was living in Limerick, which has a shared station, there were no trains either. I am annoyed by this strike, though now that I live in Dublin I am substantially insulated from the issues of public transport that face the rest of the country.
My annoyance was the point, though. Your inconvenience, your ruined plans, your difficulty moving around the country: that is the purpose of a transport strike. Right now, Shane Ross, ostensibly our minister for transport, does not care about the strike. Shane Ross didn’t care about the last strike. He doesn’t care about the workers being expected to take a 1.75% increase in pay for even more efficiency increases, while TD’s get an extra €2700 this year.
The only thing Minister Ross seems to care about at the moment is stopping the threat of North Korea’s nuclear program, which, while a noble and lofty goal, is probably something that should be the remit of the Department of Foreign Affairs, and not an Independent TD.
This isn’t purely to be laid at the feet of Minister Ross. There are other failings in the Irish system; for example, the single most significant piece of transport infrastructure in the country in recent times, as per the Department of Transport’s own website, is the Luas cross city line, which is getting €344 Million to ensure its completion.
Now, the Luas is useful, for people in Dublin, but this is happening while the government is cutting routes from rural Ireland faster than you can say ‘Thatcherism’, and Ireland is one of the countries with lowest public transport uptake in Europe, second only to Cyprus.
The government has been pumping money into public transport vanity projects in Dublin, so they can say they have trams like a ‘big European city’ rather than dealing with broader structural deficits in our public transport.
So this brings me back to the rail strike, and the issues that cause it to happen, such as no pay rises in the guts of a decade, and efficiency increases (more work) to try and make a system that is incredibly underfunded a little more cost efficient. Then being given an offer, that is at best paltry and insulting, to try and stop the workers from revolting, while still not addressing the issues about general underfunding.
This isn’t just the rail workers either; the bus strike happened earlier this year because of critical underfunding. The Luas strike happened because drivers wanted some basic increases in benefits like better maternity leave and rostering hours that were actually humane.
Dublin Bus went on strike because they hadn’t gotten a pay rise in 8 years and they had to pay to live in Dublin. These are all the same issues; for every case it’s about a failure to pay workers in line with even the most basic increases needed to stay in line with cost of living, much less actually give them more money, and the excuse is always that the services are ‘financially vulnerable’.
So much like every other strike, it comes to direct action from the workers when the government has failed to do anything useful or helpful, and management aren’t willing to engage in good faith. Well, get angry, and use it; call your TD’s office and shout at the staffer who is unlucky enough to be on the phone, because you’ve been affected by the strike.
Tell them that the failure of the government to do anything in it’s entire lifespan to deal with systemic failures in our transport system is a joke. Email Shane Ross ([email protected]), because it’s his job to fix things like this and he’s once again got his head so far down in the sand that you’d need a JCB to dislodge him.
Just don’t get angry at the workers; don’t attack them on Twitter because you’re inconvenienced, attack the government. Don’t blame them for fighting against systemic failures in the only way that they can. Blame the people that perpetuate these failures, the government that would happily sell off state assets for some twisted neo-liberal ideology rather than invest in the future of our nation. It’s been a hundred years since the Bolshevik revolution, so in honour of that, maybe direct your vitriol at an inept government rather than your fellow workers.