Industrial action at Irish Rail, which could have affected thousands of passengers, has been averted after the company confirmed it will attend talks with one of its driver unions.
The National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) had threatened to ballot drives for stoppages, claiming the company was applying “unagreed” standards and was engaging in an “unprecedented” breach of an agreement supported by the Labour Relations Commission (LRC).
Last summer, almost 100,000 passengers had travel plans thrown into chaos when staff staged strikes over the company’s decision to press ahead with temporary pay cuts. An end to the stand-off was achieved through negotiation and in its recommendation, the LRC said the sides should enter a conciliation conference on “past productivity”.
According to the NBRU, almost five years ago the company agreed the introduction of new safety standards should be accompanied by some form of extra remuneration for its 300 members in the Loco Driving grade at Irish Rail.
In a letter to the company this week, NBRU general secretary Dermot O’Leary wrote: “The issue of safety standards, including the use of downloads, is one that has concerned the Loco Driving grade for a considerable length of time. I am aware the LRC wrote to you to request that the company would attend a conciliation conference, in line with our agreed procedures.
“It would appear the company has taken a decision to ignore both our procedures and the role of the LRC in resolving industrial relations disputes,” he said. “This is particularly regretful given the LRC proposals of September 3, 2014 provide for a conciliation conference on ‘past productivity’.”
The company said that it is in the process of making arrangements to attend the LRC. It said in that case, it assumed the notice of industrial action would be withdrawn by the union.
Mr O’Leary said that as of yesterday afternoon his union had not received confirmation the company would attend. “If recent experiences continue to be the norm in how Irish Rail addresses industrial issues, then it is only a matter of time before we reach the point of no return in terms of having an industrial relations dispute.
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