Opinion: Why do we hate the Dublin Bus strikers?

By Conor McNally

This isn’t a column arguing for Dublin Bus drivers to receive a 15% pay rise over the next three years.

Neither is it a column claiming that they should receive the 6% pay rise promised to them seven years ago.

It is most certainly not a column that mentions the 32.6% cut in the subvention to Dublin Bus since 2008 and questions this government’s much-professed commitment to public services.

This is a column about perception and more specifically the question, why do so many people regard the strikers with such contempt?

Ringsend Bus Depot (Source: Wikimedia)

One potential reason stems from the oft-quoted line that Ireland never had the strong labour movement enjoyed by other countries. Labour may be the oldest political party in Ireland but the War of Independence and subsequent civil war shunted socialist ideology aside in favour of the centre-right conservatism that has dominated for almost a century.

These historical reasons certainly contributed to the present political landscape but I’m not sure I can apportion all the blame to the British, Dev or whichever political bogeyman you choose to abhor the most.

The rhetoric used by those complaining about the strikers comes from a very personal place. People grumble of being inconvenienced by the strikers, as if the drivers of Dublin Bus don’t know the job they do and what happens when they don’t do it.

It’s not that these grievances don’t have merit but some of the complaints have the ring of selfishness and narcissism that middle-aged writers routinely accuse of being the natural state of millennials, but it is not just young people harbouring resentment towards the strikers.

Bus stop (Source: Wikipedia)

Resentment. That’s the word. We resent the drivers for being able to fight for better pay. That’s not supposed to be able to happen in 21st Century Ireland where privatisation and technology have left most of us without the help of organised labour. If I have to work my zero hours job for little pay and even less security shouldn’t the drivers be happy they have a job at all?

What a wretched way of thinking but one that seems very in vogue. When did it become normal to immediately side with the business rather than the workers? The facts become meaningless beneath our cloud of resentment and this makes conventional, human empathy impossible.

No one’s calling anyone a fascist here. I’m just asking that you stop and think before opening your mouth to say that scab workers should be brought in during the strike or that in the future all buses should be fully automated to make drivers redundant.

The ability to improve your working conditions is a right, one that not enough of us have.

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