Industrial action ‘within weeks’ after rail talks stall

Dermot O'Leary: Strike actionwarning. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

The entire rail network could be ground to a halt as early as the end of this month after talks between unions and Irish Rail broke down at the Labour Relations Commission last night.

Almost exactly a year ago the company sought to implement pay cuts blaming a reduction in annual income of over €108m since the onset of the economic crisis. Unions responded with two days of work stoppages which crippled services.

However, following 22 hours of talks over two days at the Labour Relations Commission (LRC), a deal was hammered out which reduced the duration of temporary pay cuts from 28 months to 25 months. It also committed the parties to attending a “cost management committee” and talks on productivity.

The National Bus and Rail Union and Siptu, which represent the 530 drivers involved, says since then the company has refused to engage, as required under the agreement of September 3, 2014, in talks on past productivity.

Dermot O’Leary, NBRU general secretary, said that came to a head yesterday when further talks at the LRC broke down when the unions sought engagement from management on that past productivity element.

He said the two unions’ joint driver committee will meet next Tuesday to discuss their next step but warned a strike ballot could see industrial action within two to three weeks.

An Irish Rail spokesman said it attend the LRC talks yesterday to discuss productivity measures with drivers “which would generate benefits for the company’s still fragile financial position and employee’s earnings”.

He said the company continues to lose over €1 million a month and had to “identify verifiable cost savings through defined productivity measures” as any other course of action would renew the threat to the future viability of the company and the job security of its staff.

He said the company remains available to further discussions.


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