MORE than 100,000 commuters are to be hit with an "inevitable" train strike at Irish Rail within weeks.
Transport Minister Leo Varadkar has come under criticism after saying his is "not hopeful" that agreement could be reached between management and unions.
The row is over plans to cut payroll costs by nearly €5m a year.
Talks between the company and employee unions at the Labour Relations Commission (LRC) ended in failure before Christmas.
And Mr Varadkar's admission that he could "see strikes happening" before March has been criticised as "defeatist" by Fianna Fail transport spokesman Timmy Dooley.
"The minister seems to accept that a strike is a fait accompli. That's a very defeatist attitude," he said, pointing out that it was Mr Varadkar's job to make sure the strike did not happen.
"The last thing anyone wants to see is passengers disrupted and I would hope that some agreement can be reached, but within the next one to two months, I can see rail strikes happening," Mr Varadkar said.
He expects the matter to go before the Labour Court in the coming weeks.