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Independent.ie

Thursday 8 December 2016

Opinion: Public sector has no right to hold country to ransom

Joe Barry

Published 11/11/2016 | 08:30

What will happen to workers if buses become driverless within five years?
What will happen to workers if buses become driverless within five years?

We should hold yet another referendum to decide, for once and for all, who actually runs the country. Is it the Government or the trade unions?

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None of us voted for the unions so why should they be allowed hold us to ransom? No one is forced to become a teacher or bus driver or garda and young people are queuing up to get jobs in those professions.

They were all trained at great cost to us, the taxpayers but the moment they qualify and commence employment, many of them seem to start complaining about their pay and working conditions. No one is forcing them to adopt these careers. If they are so unrewarding, why not try something else?

The word poverty is bandied about to the extent that it has lost its true meaning so to assist those grandstanding politicians who use the term daily, I will try to help them understand. Poverty is defined in my Oxford English dictionary as "The state of being very poor".

To my mind, being very poor means not having enough to eat as well as being unable to procure warm clothing or find a place to shelter from the cold. In other words, being reduced to begging in the streets to avoid starvation.

We have umpteen charities working hard to help those who are in such a situation and are unable to help themselves.

We also have a social welfare system of payments that ensures that no one need be in the situation described above. Those unfortunates we see sleeping rough are doing so for reasons such as drug addiction, alcoholism and an inability to access the help that is available.

Poverty should not be described as having to do without a 42in TV in the living room or being unable to take holidays abroad annually. Being homeless shouldn't mean being in a position to refuse offers of a free house just because it's not near where you were born.

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No one is disputing that teachers, Gardaí and nurses all carry out essential and difficult work but few seem to realise that we, the tax payers of Ireland, are the ones who ultimately pay their wages.

What will happen bus drivers if, as we are told is a certainty, buses become driverless? This could occur in as little as five year' time. The result will indeed be interesting.

Perhaps they will again hold the nation to ransom and refuse to allow the new buses leave their depots.

Or perhaps the drivers will be kept on in some other capacity like the land commission officials of old and still draw their wages and go to "work" each day and sit around chatting and drinking tea while the automated buses astonish the working public by arriving on time, day in, day out.

The idiocy of benchmarking is beginning to become clear to everyone. During the Celtic tiger years, public servants felt they were getting left behind as the private sector boomed and wages increased. So their salaries were lifted accordingly.

Then the crash came and many thousands of private sector workers lost their jobs. But it appears you cannot let public servants go without a strike occurring so you and I kept on paying them. A public servant seems to almost need to commit murder or serious fraud to lose his or her job.

Now they are flexing their muscles again and without having any political mandate, are causing millions of euro of losses to the private sector who are the very ones who generate the money to pay them in the first place.

If teachers are to be awarded pay rises, they should in turn be asked to allow the small numbers of their members who are not good at their job to be removed from their posts and released back in to the labour market where they can find work more appropriate to their talents. It is very unfair to have bad teachers inflicted on young people whose entire future can be affected.

I recall from my own school days some excellent teachers who were inspirational and I owe them a huge debt for the manner in which they opened up subjects to us that became lifetime interests.

But there were others who were terrible at their job yet immune to any sanction.

Bad public servants, be they Gardaí, teachers or whatever should be removed and allow the majority of good ones to do the job they were trained for. Then and only then should they be given a raise.

A lightbulb moment that said it all

Tiny minorities with vested interests have been given excessive power to diminish the quality of life for the majority.

Our planning laws are a good example, where trifling objections are made to most new development and individuals can hold up beneficial projects for years. The M3 motorway was one example where the protesters made ludicrous claims including that the Hill of Tara would be damaged.

More worrying is the current row over the new Apple development in Athenry. We have the IDA and the Dept of Jobs and Enterprise striving to bring employment to rural areas yet another tiny minority are allowed block a good development.

When working in the Dublin cattle market many years ago I recall the lone electric light bulb failed in our small, dark, one room concrete office. We were obliged to inform the corporation who owned the building. After waiting some hours, I said I would run to the shops and get one but was told if I did so there would be a strike.

Eventually three men arrived and changed the solitary bulb. Has anything changed?

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