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Fight the sellout!

The proposals being put to Bus Eireann workers, if accepted, would represent an enormous defeat for the bus workers and for the Irish working class as a whole.

To mass redundancy is added a wage restructuring and deregulation that will produce a sharp overall cut in wages and a systematic speed-up in work - 5/7 contracts with no overtime and no bonuses.

The proposal is yet another indication that the direction of the Irish recovery is towards a permanent low wage economy, it would copperfasten the ongoing privatisation of transport, strengthen the Troika programme of privatisation aimed at public services and resources and deny the poor, especially the rural poor, an effective transport service.

A heavy burden rests on the workers. The union leaders will say that they have avoided privatisation, but in future Bus Eireann will operate as a private company, with dreadful conditions internally matching a dreadful service externally.

Yet voting No will lead immediately to a life or death struggle.

The majority of bus workers will agree that the union leaders sold them out. The question is when?

When they based the strike on their right to negotiate cuts rather than oppose them?

When they accepted Bus Eireann as a separate commercial com-pany that was required to balance the books?

When they proposed €18 million in cuts rather than the company's open-ended cut?

When they forced Dublin Bus workers to vote over and over again until they agreed €12million cuts there?

Was it when, as part of partner-ship, they agreed the Troika's modernisation pro-gramme of fullscale privatisation or when they joined the National Transport Authority to implement that programme?

The fact is that the trade union leadership are operating the Troika programme in Ireland alongside Irish capitalism. When elements of the programme are being implemented they leap back and forward across the barricades in a pantomime of opposition.

The workers end up shafted, and if they resist will face the combined wrath of government, bosses and bureaucrats.

However the Bus Eireann strike involved something new. For the first time in many years we saw self-organization and activity outside the remit of the union leaders. The workers deployed the flying picket, the sympathy strike and secondary action to bring the majority of the transport system to a halt.

The extent to which the action was fully independent of the bureaucracy is unknown and the ability of the strikers to regroup depends on this.

What can be said is that victory will depend on widening the battle to involve the whole working class in a political and economic battle against privatisation and the relentless drive towards a low-wage economy.

We cannot say if the bus workers will win. What we can say is that major new battles around public services and a two-tier pay system are on the way. They cannot be resolved in the fiscal space left after meeting the payment schedule set by the European Central Bank.

The workers must decide. Permanent austerity and privatisation of services or a repudiation of a debt that is not ours and of the capitalist and imperialist system that enforces endless misery.


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