“Public tendering is not Bus privatisation” : National Transport Authority – Unions urged to call-off bus strikes
The National Transport Authority (NTA) today (April 22) rejected any claim that it was ‘privatising’ bus services in Ireland. And CEO Anne Graham urged the trade unions to call off the bus strikes threatened for May, and to re-engage in talks with their employers through the Labour Relations Commission, saying that hundreds of thousands of people would be severely disrupted if the strikes were to go ahead.
Anne Graham, CEO, said: “These tendered routes are not being privatised – that would be about transfer of ownership and loss of public control, which isn’t the case here at all. What we’re doing is specifying details of a bus service we want delivered – we set out the fares, routes, frequencies, vehicles, environmental standards, customer service standards – and we will seek submissions from the market on that basis, from any operator, including the current operators Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann. The successful tenderer will operate the specified services in return for an agreed fee, and will remit the collected fare revenues to the NTA. The NTA will maintain full control over service delivery and standards across all routes – in exactly the same way as we now do for Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann. We will also retain control of the vehicles and have, of course the right to withdraw the contract from a poorly performing supplier.
“It’s very similar to the way in which the Luas is currently run, where the Railway Procurement Agency and the NTA awarded the operation of Luas to a private sector company, Travsdev, following an open market procurement.”
She pointed out that since the establishment of the NTA in 2009, Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann had enjoyed “direct award contracts” for the provision of bus services in Ireland – for which they receive substantial public subsidy – amounting to some €90 million in 2014, with an additional €90 million in capital investment. The companies also retain the proceeds from their fare boxes – which amount to many millions every year.
“Clearly, we are obliged to ensure that the taxpayer is getting the best possible value for this considerable spend. And the travelling public deserves the highest possible standards in its bus services. By allowing 10% of these routes to be publicly tendered, we will have a good comparator to assess the value that the taxpayer is obtaining from the overall expenditure on subsidised bus services”, she continued.
Ms Graham said that the Authority’s market tendering process was informed by its 2013 national public consultation, and that interested tenderers are submitting completed pre-qualification materials this week. These will be analysed in the coming weeks, and in June tender documents will be issued to qualifying participants with a view to receiving completed tenders in October.
And Anne Graham urged the trade unions to re-engage with the talks process in the Labour Relations Commission, which they walked out of last month, and to call off the threatened strikes next month which will bring huge disruption to hundreds of thousands of people across Ireland
She said that the Authority has been engaged in the Labour Relations Commission talks since July 2014 – attending all 12 meetings and making every effort to address issues raised by the unions at those talks. Discussions around employment standards were actively underway on the morning the unions chose to walk out of that talks process.
She said: “In the case of Dublin Bus or Bus Éireann not being successful in the competitive tender, affected staff can automatically transfer to the winning contractor with the same rights and obligations they had enjoyed with their previous employer (Protection of Employees’ Rights on Transfer of Undertakings – TUPE). In addition to this existing legislative protection, Minister Donohoe has stated that he is willing to address any outstanding concerns over pensions, which are outside of the normal TUPE provisions.
“The Authority is confident that, with the economy now growing and public transport use increasing, the expansion of bus services requiring additional bus drivers will mean that the numbers of staff transferring can be kept to a minimum and this was also confirmed at the LRC talks.”
The Authority is committed as always to the improvement of public bus passengers services, investing €90 million in 2014 in the purchase of fleet, developing Bus Rapid Transit along key corridors, reviewing and reconfiguring services that are better integrated with rail and light rail services and procuring new services to replace lost commercial services.