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FactCheck: How do Dublin Bus drivers' earnings compare with their European counterparts?

Are bus drivers in the capital really the third-highest paid in Europe?


WITH ALL PLANNED strikes called off this afternoon, it looks like the industrial dispute at Dublin Bus may be approaching a resolution.

But the debate over pay and conditions for public transport workers will not be ending any time soon.

On RTE’s Prime Time last week, Patricia Callan, head of the Small Firms Association, pointed to what she saw as the damage being done to businesses in the capital, by the strike, and made this claim:

We have the third-highest paid city bus drivers in Europe.

Is that true?

Claim: Dublin Bus drivers are the third-highest paid in Europe
Verdict: Mostly TRUE

What was said:

15/9/2016. Bus Strikes Industrial Disputes Sam Boal / Sam Boal / /

During the course of a debate with Dermot O’Leary, from the National Bus and Railworkers’ Union (NBRU), and others, Callan said:

We are in a small, open economy, so we always have to have an eye to what’s happening internationally, in terms of similar economies…
We have the third-highest paid city bus drivers in Europe. The third-highest. Why would one [a bus driver] here by higher than places like London and Stockholm?…Why would that be justified?

In response, O’Leary said:

You know, the counter-argument to that is very simple – it’s cost of living increases in this country.

You can watch the debate in full, here.

The Facts

In response to our request for evidence, Patricia Callan directed us to the 2015 Prices and Earnings report by the Swiss bank UBS.

It found that, out of 71 global cities surveyed, bus drivers in Dublin had the 13th highest gross salary ($39,015.80 or €35,114.22 based on the 1 January 2015 exchange rate).

Dublin bus drivers had the 6th-highest gross salary out of 34 European cities, and the third-highest out of 31 cities in the EU.


It’s clear from Patricia Callan’s response, and the evidence she cited, that she was referring to the EU, rather than “Europe”, although this is the term she actually used.

Notwithstanding this, there is another difficulty.

Gross earnings are earnings before tax and other provisions are deducted. So to get a fuller picture of the net earnings of bus drivers and their EU counterparts, we’ve done our best to calculate the effective rate of income tax among bus drivers in Europe.

In many cases, the actual tax paid by an individual is dependent on their individual circumstances, marital status, and so on, so these figures should be treated with some caution.

For details on tax rates and sources, you can download a spreadsheet at the end of the article.


As it happens, Dublin’s bus drivers rank 6th in Europe and 3rd in the EU according to these figures, too.

The UBS gross earnings rankings don’t include every single city in Europe, although they do analyse data from 34 cities in 29 countries.

Allowing for this, as well as any potential imprecision in our adjusted, after-tax rankings, and the use of “Europe” rather than “EU” in Callan’s statement, we rate this claim Mostly TRUE.


Although Callan’s claim is largely accurate, income should really be evaluated in the context of other factors, especially cost of living, as the NBRU’s Dermot O’Leary alluded to on Prime Time.

Here are two rankings of European cities and countries with the highest cost of living in 2015.

From the Economist Intelligence Unit (Cities in the EU are in bold):

1. Zurich 2. Geneva 3. Paris 4. London 5. Copenhagen 6. Oslo 7. Helsinki 8. Frankfurt 9. Vienna 10. Dublin

And from the OECD (EU countries are in bold):

1. Switzerland 2. Norway 3. Denmark 4. Sweden 5. Iceland 6. UK 7. Finland 8. Luxembourg 9. Ireland 10. Netherlands

So the average income of Dublin’s bus drivers ranks a bit above Dublin and Ireland’s cost of living rankings, but not by much.

To download a spreadsheet containing all the relevant data, click here’s FactCheck is a signatory to the International Fact-Checking Network’s Code of Principles. You can read it here.

For information on how FactCheck works, what the verdicts mean, and how you can take part, check out our Reader’s Guide here

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