Inter-city, commuter, and Dart services will all be out of action, leaving tens of thousands of passengers stranded on key travel days.
The first of five strikes is scheduled for Wednesday, November 1, in the middle of schools’ mid-term break. Strikes will also take place on Tuesday, November 14, when Ireland play Denmark at home in the second leg of the World Cup play-offs, and on Friday, December 8, the traditional start of the Christmas shopping period.
Stoppages are also planned for Tuesday, November 7, and Thursday, November 23, and the unions have warned they “may decide to escalate the action by way of increased frequency and duration”.
Ibec, the business representative group, criticised the move which it said was unnecessary and would cause massive disruption to the general public and the economic life of the country.
Ibec’s Maeve McElwee said: “The impact of this potential action over a public holiday and in the run-in to Christmas is difficult for all businesses but for those in retail, hospitality, and tourism sectors it is devastating.”
Iarnród Éireann warned that the action would undermine the company’s ability to meet any pay increase.
“There will be disruption to customers and uncertainty over a prolonged period will lose us business,” said Iarnród Éireann .
“Our precarious finances will be weakened further, in a situation where accumulated losses are €160m and the company is dangerously close to insolvency. Our ability to address the pay claim will be reduced.”
It urged the unions to return to talks, but in a joint statement, the five unions involved described management’s treatment of the workers as “contemptuous” and said it would make a resolution more difficult.
The dispute, which was referred by the Labour Court to the Workplace Relations Commission, centres on a claim for a 3.75% pay rise.
Iarnród Éireann says it offered 1.75% and the unions had come some way to meet the offer but had pulled out of negotiations over the company’s request for some work practice changes.
Key to those changes is the redeployment of some station-based staff to posts on the trains. The company says 85% of passengers get their tickets online or from automated kiosks and fewer staff are needed to man stations.
Siptu, the largest union, said the pay claim was reasonable but Iarnród Éireann’s attitude was “intransigent and combative”.