Tomorrow, bus commuters will be wearing out the shoe leather again when Dublin Bus drivers switch off their engines for another two-day strike.

When the Luas drivers took similar action, they were almost universally condemned for their decision. It is interesting that the bus drivers haven’t been subject to the same derision. This is despite the fact that while 80,000 people use the Luas every day, some 400,000 people will be affected by the bus strike.

Intrigued by the contrast in the response to this latest industrial action, we asked our Claire Byrne Live/Amárach Research Smartphone panel, do you support the Dublin bus drivers’ industrial action for a pay increase of 15 per cent over the next three years? 49 per cent said no, 38 per cent said yes and 13 per cent don’t know.

Claire Byrne Live/Amárach Research Smartphone poll

So why the relatively high level of support for the bus drivers? After all, if you rely on the number 147 to get you to the office and it’s lashing rain in the morning, their action is going to cause you huge problems for the next two days.

The answer perhaps lies in the fact that bus drivers provide such an intrinsic and visible service and are seen to be battling Dublin traffic day in and day out, we feel more connected to them than we might the Luas drivers.

There is also the, not insignificant matter of the pay demand. Luas drivers began that campaign by seeking an astronomical rise of, in some cases, up to 54%. Bus drivers are seeking a more realistic 15%. It’s not realistic enough for employers though, who have offered 8%. But the public might see an element of reason in their demands, which could be winning some support.

Whatever the outcome of the dispute, it’s an intriguing lesson in managing the message, if you are a trade union. Those lessons are; don’t test your support by making outlandish demands and don’t take your public support for granted. The bus drivers might find that any protracted action might lose them the goodwill of the people who are forced to take a hike this week.

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