MEMORANDUM FROM THE TRANSPORT INDUSTRIAL COMMITTEE OF THE IRISH CONGRESS OF TRADE UNIONS
The Transport Industrial Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions respectfully submit the following views for your consideration.
The trade unions have as their priority aim the protection of their members living standards and security of employment. Consequently in any examination of CIE the trade unions express a very serious interest. The unions represent some 17,000 workers in the industry.
Further the unions would see as their role an interest in any decisions taken in respect of public transport since directly these would affect the living standards and security of employees and indirectly would have an effect on other members.
The unions are all the more vigilant of examinations of the National Transport Company in view of recent press reports and also the emphasis on the traffic conditions throughout the country. The unions recognise there will be greater emphasis on the development of transport facilities and services. The Government has recently appointed the Transport Consultative Commision to investigate and report on the measures necessary to achieve the most efficient and economic transport system for goods and passengers. The transfer of the cost of improvements, maintenance of roads to the Exchequer will result in very much more pressure being exerted in arriving at the areas to be considered for public expenditure.
Under the heading of Transport the Government’s White Paper says ‘The achievement of the Government’s economic objectives requires that industry, agriculture and commerce should not be hampered by any deficiencies in infrastructural services, of which transport is an important component. An efficienct transport system can contribute substantially to the economic growth, social progress and energy conservation.’
In the design of an efficient transport system the unions see that the aim of the State must be to provide:
1. the basic infrastructure, taking account of the needs of the community;
2. a public transport system for goods and passengers.
Consistent with the above aims, the unions note that the Department of the Environment has recently published its ‘Road Development Plan for the 1980’s’—this outlines the proposals for roadworks over the next decade.
In regard to item 2 above some work has been done with regard to railways many decisions are still outstanding particularly those in relation to the electrification of the Bray to Howth suburban line and also the mass transit proposals of CIE.
The unions see the Company hampered in carrying out its objectives by the lack of decision at Government level. They see that there should be specific emphasis on providing public transport of a standard that will provide an efficient service to cater for as many of the communities needs as possible. They consider that sufficient cognisance has not been given to the role public transport can play in achieving the objectives as communicated in the White Paper.
There is very little hard facts regarding Road Freight. The Central Statistics Office carry out a review of the activities of licensed hauliers including CIE. Such evidence as there is would seem to indicate that approximately 10% of the tonnage available is carried by licensed hauliers, the remainder by own account operators.
The amount of road freight carried by transport firms (licensed operators) in the country compares very unfavourably with other countries.
The Road Traffic Act 1978 introduced certain liberalisation, this had the effect of the creating of problems such as industrial relations problems in firms where licensed hauliers are now operating a number of vehicles on one plate, to the detriment of the worker drivers in the own account area.
If we are to have an effective and efficient freight transport system particularly in the short term CIE is well placed, and needs to be encouraged to take advantage of the problems in the road freight area:
a. the unhealthy position of the dominance of the own account transport in Ireland;
b.the additional costs on Irish operations due to legal limitations on vehicles;
c. the impact of EEC social legislation on transport costs (estimated at up to 25% on transport within the scope of the legislation);
d. the serious need for the conservation of energy;
e. the high cost of accessibility to urban areas and the effect of this access on environmental and recreational needs of the community.
The provision of an efficient bus service offers the most satisfactory service to the whole community and gives the best service for the limited resources available. The unions consider that every possible arrangement should be made to improve the service supplied by CIE. CIE has got an undeserved image regarding its bus services. Some facts will show the magnitude of the problem. The Dublin city services have in excess of 200 million passenger journeys in a year. Each of these are a possible source of complaint and experience has proved the bus service is most likely to come in for criticism for various reasons; the permutations are infinite. Also anything that occurs on CIE is newsworthy and consequently the Company and its employees very easily become the target of the public and the news media. The number of passengers using the service have decreased, this has been due to a number of factors:
1. Fare increases—this was one reason for the decrease of passengers, although one has to relate the decreases with the extension of the free travel facilities to handicapped persons and also to the old age pensioners (age barrier lowered);
2. The deterioration in the quality of the service. There has always been sufficient capacity available but traffic congestion and lack of staff have resulted in irregularity.
The increase in private car ownership is put forward as being a further reason but whilst it would obviously have some effect the experience elsewhere in other cities shows that where public transport is good enough and reliable car owners will use it.
The unions consider that improvements could be achieved by the introduction of bus priority schemes. These work successfully in other countries and should be examined here. The experiments which have been carried out were not given any reasonable opportunity to prove themselves. They consider the bus plays a crucial part in the balance between public and private transport and as such holds the key to the problem of peak congestion.
Every assistance should be given to eradicating the reasons for customer resistance and to improving the service. This approach would be in the interests of all the community by leaving the roads more free for all the necessary journeys of other traffic. The unions consider that giving priority to buses would help in the eradication of some of the causes for customer resistance, bunching and unreliability. CIE could offer a more effective and efficient service if the delays to the bus service outside the control of CIE were kept to a minimum and predictable level.
Employment and Industrial Relations
One can read and hear a great deal about the state of employment and the industrial relations in CIE, but it has to be considered in perspective. The Company employs 17,000 (approximately) employees. They are in various areas of transport. The staff is very highly unionised. Considering the number of unions catering for the staff (23), the problems which give rise to dispute are few. The Company and the unions have actively been reviewing and improving their industrial relations system. The unions have in agreement with CIE recently appointed a full time Secretary to service the various trade union groups and to strengthen and improve the working arrangements and the communications.
If one critically examines the operation of CIE, the extent of goodwill and co-operation will become apparent.
Through negotiations, agreement has been reached over the last 5 years for a reduction of staff in the Company of approximately 18%.
The Company offering a service to the public is very sensitive to publicity. Any interference with the service how small is a newsworthy item. The unions consider that any investigation of the Company should take account of the above factors when examining the industrial relations in the Company, which we would claim is no worse than the general average of employments. Another factor to be taken into account in considering CIE is the morale of the staff—because of the reasons previously stated, because of inaction by Government or other agencies staff see a deterioration in the service to the public, and being in the forefront are the first target of complaint. On the buses it is the quality of the stock, the irregularity of the service and the delays which give rise to complaint. On the railway the lack of action to try and improve the services in suburban areas, the deterioration of the rolling stock which lead to problems. These have a serious effect on staff morale.
If morale is to be improved a pride in the job engendered and the service to the public achieved the changes we have outlined above together with the Company being allowed to make the best uses of its resources have to be undertaken.
There is great emphasis on the ‘losses’ of CIE. It is placed in the same category as commercial companies. We are not saying that the fact that the Company provides a social service as distinct from operating on a commercial basis must be thought of as justifying inefficiency.
We are saying however, that by looking at the costs and benefits to the public CIE are likely to be regarded in a much better financial light.
Some of the benefits include:
(a)given an effective and reliable service the greater use of the services would result and a consequent benefit would accrue to the public;
(b)there would be a much more efficient use of energy;
(c)there would be a much more effective use of scarce land resources.
The unions therefore would consider that decisions should be taken to ensure there is an injection of capital into the system to enable the Company to carry out its part in improving the transport system within the country.
Summary of Unions’ Views
1. That the greatest emphasis should be placed on the development of public transport as this approach offers the most satisfactory service to the whole community and gives the best service for the limited resources available (including public money, customers’ money, energy and land space).
2. That CIE should be assisted and encouraged to use its advantages to provide a freight service which will overcome some of the unfavourable features and difficulties of the private road freight sector.
3. That measures be taken to improve the position of the bus and rail services by eradicating those features affecting the services which are outside the control of the Company.
4. That action be taken in respect of suburban railways to improve the service both in terms of reliability and comfort.
5. That bearing in mind the level of co-operation from the staff, the level of increase in productivity and the low morale of the staff at the present time urgent action be taken to eliminate the factors outside the control of CIE which mitigate against the provision of an efficient and reliable service.
6. That a realistic view of the financial arrangements for CIE should be taken, and recognising the benefits an effective, efficient and reliable public transport system has for the community, arrangements should be made for finance to be made available to carry out the necessary improvements.