Irish Rail has today defended its decision to send letters to employees detailing its position in the current industrial dispute.
The move drew criticism from the National Bus & Rail Union (NBRU), which called it “an insult to a workforce” and accused the company of trying to undermine trade unions.
Workers at both Siptu and the NBRU are due to engage in a second three-hour stoppage on the morning of Friday, November 6 as part of a long-running row over pay for productivity and cost-cutting measures.
NBRU general secretary Dermot O'Leary said: "Writing directly to staff in this fashion, designed as it is, to undermine the trade unions, who are after all directly representing their members is counter-productive and will not get us one jot closer to a resolution of this dispute.
“Our members are furious at this intervention and see it as an insult to a workforce that have fully cooperated in improving the rail network in this country over the last decade.
“The only reasonable way of getting a resolution here is for all stakeholders to fully engage on all of the issues, attempting to disenfranchise workers’ representatives is bringing a distasteful element to this dispute”
“We remain wedded to the view that there is a reluctance on the company side to fully engage on all of the issues at the heart of this dispute, trying to side-line the trade unions in writing directly to train drivers is, to us, systematic of what we have been experiencing at the company over recent times.”
In a response to Mr O’Leary’s statement this evening, Barry Kenny, corporate communications manager with Irish Rail, speculated that the union’s “intemperate outburst” may have been provoked by internal pressure within the union.
“Iarnród Éireann will always communicate with its employees on matters of importance, and will not be seeking NBRU permission or approval to do so,” the statement read.
“Our drivers are members of the Iarnród Éireann [Irish Rail] workforce before they become members of any trade union.
“It may be that this intemperate outburst reflects pressure on the NBRU from within to explain why the proposals which we had offered, which would have led to an increase in driver earnings of up to 7.9% through productivity proposals, were not allowed to be put to drivers by the NBRU and SIPTU negotiating teams.
“As the chief executive said in his letter to drivers: ‘The savings and allowances proposed are real and deliverable and I hope we can work collectively to deliver these to improve earnings for drivers, to help achieve a sustainable future for Iarnród Éireann, and most importantly to continue to provide a transport service which can grow to meet the needs of our customers’.”
He said that the company remains willing to negotiate in an effort to avert further strikes, however.
"We are available to re-engage, through the Workplace Relations Commission, or through any arm of the industrial relations machinery, because we all know it’s only discussion that's going to avoid further disruption."