40,000 commuters affected as rail strike kicks into gear

40,000 commuters affected as rail strike kicks into gear
General scenes around Heuston Station as services are interrupted by a three-hour strike by train drivers at Iarnród Éireann which is due to run from 6am until 9am

Thousands of commuters are facing major disruption this morning as Irish Rail drivers go on strike.

Last-ditch talks to avoid the work stoppage collapsed at the Workplace Relations Commission last night.

It means there will be no DART, commuter or Intercity services between 6am and 9am this morning. Today is traditionally one of the busiest days of the year for Irish Rail.

SIPTU's Paul Cullen said he did not envisage an end to the dispute any time soon, with the strike action due to be repeated in two weeks.

"I'm not sure what it would take at this stage given the level of negotiations which have been held at the WRC and the manner in which those negotiations which have been held," he said.

"There is deep distrust as to whether the company are serious in trying to resolve this issue."

 Empty platforms at Kent Station, Cork
Empty platforms at Kent Station, Cork

What is the dispute about?

The row is over productivity.

Driver unions the National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) and Siptu want financial recognition for past productivity. Management said it is willing to engage on existing productivity measures. It said a proposal was on the table that would mean a 7.9% pay increase for drivers over three years.

Unions described that as “manifestly untrue and designed to create a false and misleading impression among both the public and our members”.

Cuts

Mark Gleeson from Rail User Ireland (whose committee members do not work in the rail industry) said Government budget cuts appeared to be at the root of the problem.

"The first person I would point the finger at is the Minister for Transport (Paschal Donohoe) and his predecessors," he said.

"They cut Irish Rail's budget by 40% over the last 10 years. It's unsustainable. That leaves Irish Rail management in a situation where they either go bankrupt or they find a way of negotiating themselves into a working situation with the unions."

Online customers who are booked to travel during the strike can use their train tickets any time after the dispute finishes today or tomorrow. They can also apply for a refund on their credit card.

Dublin Bus meanwhile, expects services to be busier than normal today, but spokesperson Carol Donohue said there would not be any extra buses laid on to meet the increase in demand.

"Services are operating as normal, with the full fleet deployed during the morning peak time," she said.

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