WE NEED TO STOP RACE TO THE BOTTOM ON T&Cs IN BUS SECTOR
That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled “an Act to Amend the Public Transport Regulation Act 2009”
Our bus network is an essential public service and if we are to have private competition with public operators, it is critical that we have a basic threshold on pay and conditions, a reliable service, and that all operators compete on a level playing field.
I am introducing this Bill today, on behalf of the Labour Party, in order to stop a race to the bottom on terms and conditions in the bus sector.
It proposes to amend Section 10 (3) of the Public Transport Regulation Act of 2009.
That Section currently requires that an applicant for a bus licence must demonstrate:
- The capacity to obtain the necessary financial and other resources
- Compliance with national and international legislation on road transport, and
- Possession of a current tax clearance certificate
My Bill will add new conditionality for the awarding of licenses by the NTA to private operators to ensure that they either:
1) Engage in collective bargaining with their own workforce, or else,
2) Become a member of an association representative of employers in the sector.
Provision (2) would ensure a Sectoral Employment Order covering the private bus industry could be introduced.
The proposed conditions would ensure a more level playing field between private operators and public operators such as Bus Éireann.
It would also enable a Sectoral Employment Order to be introduced to set a floor on terms and conditions for staff across the sector.
These provisions would mean that when a private operator receives a license to operate a route, the operator would be bound to observe normal industrial relations practise preventing a race to the bottom on the terms and conditions of bus drivers.
Workers and employers have both the right to associate and the right to refuse to associate.
It is not, generally speaking, constitutionally permissible to require employers either to join a representative negotiating body or to engage in collective bargaining with its workers.
However, it has been public policy, as expressed in legislation for well over a century, that an unregulated market in labour cannot be permitted to result in workers receiving less than a living wage.
Particularly in sectors where there is no organisation and no equality of bargaining power, good employers are undercut by the bad and there is a race to the bottom in terms and conditions of employment.
This is the rationale behind a succession of state interventions including wages councils, Joint Labour Committees and Sectoral Employment Orders.
In addition, public transport is a licensed and regulated activity.
The public interest in a well-functioning and reliable public transport system i.e. dependable buses running predictable schedules is clear.
We would argue that there are overriding considerations of the common good at stake.
People want – and are entitled to – sustainable, secure and reasonably well-paid jobs.
This Bill aims to strike the right balance between the needs of business and a worker’s right to basic job security and a decent rate of pay.
This means rejecting ‘jobs at any price’, and the spread of casual labour at the lowest level of wages.
Workers providing services on which our society and economy rely must be guaranteed basic standards of fair treatment in the workplace.
I welcome the talks that are underway in the Bus Eireann Dispute at the Workplace Relations Commission and I sincerely hope that a basis for a resolution to this crippling dispute can be found.
This strike has crippled rural Ireland, is crippling the company and is crippling the workers who are now 14 days without pay.
There are no winners in this dispute.
The onus now is on the company to restore trust in the negotiations and work to deliver a resolution.
We have proposed some common sense proposals on Bus Éireann.
We’re not calling for the Minister to step in and negotiate with the unions – but we are saying he has a role to play.
We have called for a stakeholder forum to be established.
The Minister could and should do that with immediate effect.
There are serious and complex transport policy issues at the heart of public transport in Ireland.
The Bill that I am introducing today on behalf of the Labour Party can address at least one of them.