Tuesday 12 November 2019

Commuters unfairly caught in the middle

Irish Rail chief executive David Franks
Irish Rail chief executive David Franks


The showdown between the train drivers and Iarnród Eireann should never have come to such a pass.

As far back as last August the Bank Holiday weekend had been fixed as a time when maximum disruption could be visited on passengers trying to get to work. Thus, those who have least to do with the dispute would end up being hit hardest. Any withdrawal of public services has massive consequences, which are factored into the battle plan of the unions to bring further pressure on the State to cave-in.

Caught in the middle is the commuter on whom every other day the train drivers depends to pay their wages.

Buses are overcrowded and roads are clogged with traffic. Everybody loses.

During the industrial armageddon that did for trade unions in 1980s Thatcherite Britain, Auberon Waugh wrote: “The two sides of industry have traditionally always regarded each other in Britain with the greatest possible loathing, mistrust and contempt. They are both absolutely right.”

The 1980s is not a place that management or unions really want to revisit. Strikes, go-slows, work-to-rules, and work-to-no-rules wrought havoc on industry and the public.

There has to be a better way. The history of transport is littered with intractable and disruptive disputes.

Taking matters to the 11th hour means that businesses and commuters have no choice but to make revised plans regardless of a resolution.

They do not have the luxury of waiting to see how things may turn out. Thus, costly and expensive alternatives must be sought.

One side has always blamed the other since the first recorded general strike - which was termed the secessio plebis in 494BC. Roman trade was temporarily brought to a standstill, but, in the end, as always it was the ordinary people who were hit hardest.

Irish Independent

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