Strikes are looming on the country’s rail lines after talks on pay and conditions between management and driver unions broke down at the Workplace Relations Commission.
The two sides had been in talks over the last two days about an independent report which reviewed productivity and made comparisons between the work of drivers here and in Britain.
Ahead of the talks the two driver unions, the National Bus and Rail Union and Siptu, had warned that if the discussions did not result in improved terms and conditions and shorter working weeks for their members, they would ballot for industrial action.
The talks broke down over the training of new drivers by the existing staff.
The unions said they were willing to discuss the issue of driver training “to the point whereby we could hopefully reach agreement whilst simultaneously discussing all of the issues contained in the report”.
The company said it was committed to discussing and addressing all issues raised in the independent report —but it wanted that to be in a sphere where “normal business continued”.
“This normal business includes removing the non-cooperation with the completion of the current driver training class of nine trainees, who are just three months from the end of training,” said an Irish Rail spokesman. “Regrettably, Siptu and NBRU refused to commit to this, resulting in the talks breaking down.”
He said trade unions had already withdrawn co-operation with 10-minute Dart frequency and claimed non-co-operation with training had emerged on multiple occasions “as we seek to increase the number of drivers to meet future service requirements”.
In a joint statement, NBRU general secretary Dermot O’Leary and Siptu assistant organiser Paul Cullen said it was “appalling” that a semi-state company could “flagrantly flout the recognised industrial relations procedures of the State”.
“That a taxpayer-funded transport service would treat its own workforce in such a disgraceful manner and expose the travelling public to a potential scenario whereby train services will come under threat is contemptible,” they said.
The unions said they were prepared to refer any outstanding non-agreed issuesback to the Labour Court.
“We will now immediately move to ballot our members for industrial action in response to the Company’s point blank refusal to engage around the agenda previously agreed by both parties,” they concluded.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved