The country’s bus and rail services are both on the brink of collapse after Iarnród Éireann revealed it remains “one mis-step away from insolvency”.
A pay dispute at Iarnród Éireann has been referred to the Labour Court after talks between the rail company and unions at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) failed to make headway yesterday.
Rail and bus services could all grind to a halt if this latest dispute cannot be resolved. Rolling strikes have already been announced at Bus Éireann, which will see workers picket depots later this month, while Dublin Bus staff are likely to be balloted to follow suit in the coming days.
Rail workers are demanding a 21% pay rise, however the company has pointed out that it is in severe difficulty having accumulated a deficit of €153m in recent years. The company lost €3m last year alone.
While Iarnród Éireann said they are happy to “engage constructively” with unions, a meeting at the WRC ended without agreement and the dispute will now been taken up in the Labour Court.
A spokesman warned: “We must ensure as an organisation we can respond to increases in demand, while being acutely aware that we remain one mis-step away from insolvency due to accumulated deficits of €153 million from recent years.
“Therefore, we stated to our trade unions that continued efficiency and flexibility are essential if we are to be in any position to respond to employee’s aspirations for improved earnings and welcomed ideas and proposals to achieve this,” the spokesman said.
SIPTU organiser Paul Cullen said Irish Rail workers have not received a pay increase since 2008 despite having contributed to a “significant reduction” in overall payroll costs through agreeing to implement a series of cost-containment measures. “The claim presented on behalf of our members was for a flat rate pay increase. The company stated that it wanted to talk about productivity and presented a list of efficiencies both across the company and specific to certain grades of worker,” Mr Cullen said.
He said workers had previously obtained two Labour Court recommendations on productivity which he said have yet to be addressed by management.
Dermot O’Leary, general secretary of the National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) said he was “extremely disappointed but not surprised” by the stance the company had taken.
He added that if workers were to be paid on the basis of the company making money they would be on the minimum wage as “no railway in the world makes money”.
It comes after unions representing Bus Éireann workers announced they will engage in an all-out strike from February 20, if planned cuts are not withdrawn.
Bus Éireann has announced a range of cuts in overtime, allowances and premium payments in a bid to avoid insolvency before the end of the year.
The industrial unrest is now expected to spread to Dublin Bus as the NBRU has told members it will commence a ballot for strike action if the dispute centred around pensions is not resolved in the coming days.
Mr O’Leary said: “The decision for us this week is not if but when we will ballot members.”
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