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Wednesday 1 October 2014

Fears of all out rail strike after second day of stoppages

Conor Feehan and Niall O'Connor

Published 25/08/2014 | 14:39

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STRIKING rail workers have threatened an all-out stoppage as 100,000 commuters were left without trains today.

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Buses were full to capacity this morning and many passengers were left stand¬ing at bus stops across the city as full services struggled to cope with demand.

24/08/2014. First day of Irish Rail strike. Pictured Heuston Station remains mostly empty as (NotPictured) members of the National Bus And Rail Union (NBRU) stand outside Heuston Station on their first day of Irish Rail strike. Thousands of rail travellers face disruption today and tomorrow due to a strike at Iarnrod Eireann. No rail services apart from the Luas in Dublin will run - due to a two - day stoppage in a row over pay cuts. There are further strikes planned for the 7th and 21st September. Photo: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland
An empty Heuston Station in Dublin, during the Irish Rail strike.

And the transport difficulties for Dublin train and DART passengers looks set to get far bleaker with three more days of strikes scheduled for next month – September 7,8 and 21 - and an all-out strike on the horizon.

General Secretary of the NBRU, Dermot O’Leary today issued a chilling warning to Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe who has refused to intervene in the dispute over pay cuts.

“This trade union has a mandate of 80pc for an all-out strike, so people should take note of that,” he said.

A review of the industrial action over will take place next month.

Commuters have been warned to brace themselves for a sustained all-out strike by train workers if the current impasse on wage cuts is not resolved.

A two-day strike has ground the rail network to a halt today and yesterday.

As commuters tried to get to the city centre today many were left stranded at bus stops on the outskirts of the capital because the passing double-deckers were full to capacity.

And the 48-hour stoppage affecting 160,000 people was also calculated to cost businesses in Dublin tens of millions of euro.

Iarnrod Eireann said there have been no fresh contacts between management and trade union representatives.

It said pay cuts were implemented yesterday “to protect employment and protect the company”.

Irish rail chief executive David Franks at an emergency meeting at Irish Rail offices on Amiens Street yesterday.
Irish rail chief executive David Franks at an emergency meeting at Irish Rail offices on Amiens Street yesterday

“Iarnrod Eireann would be insolvent by the middle of next year without the reductions,” said spokesman Barry Kenny.

But the National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU), who are staging the strike along with SIPTU represented rail workers, today warned that commuters can expect a longer stoppage if the pay cuts matter is not resolved.

“This trade union has a mandate of 80pc for an all-out strike, so people should take note of that,” said Dermot O’Leary, general secretary of the NBRU.

Planned up-coming strikes are already set to affect the All-Ire¬land hurling final on September 7 and the football decider on September 21.

Members of the National Bus And Rail Union outside Heuston Station
An empty Heuston Station in Dublin, during the Irish Rail strike.

No date has been set for a possible all-out strike.

Standing outside Connolly Station today was James Daly and his NBRU colleagues.

He said the public was being supportive of their strike action.

“We don’t want to be here but feel we have no choice,” he said.

“Nobody wants to see the strike escalate but the company is playing hard ball,” he added.

Mr O’Leary said a “broader issue is at play” in the dispute, adding that Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe has a responsibility.

“The [State] subvention has gone to 1998 levels. The minister has a central role to play here. He needs to address the underlying issue. [Iarnrod Eireann] is asking people to put their hands in their pockets and reduce their wages without any guarantees,” he told the Herald.

“There are three stakeholders here: the company, the Government and the workers.

“There was an agreement in 2012 that was supposed to last four years. The company came back 11 months later and asked for wage cuts,” he added.

Mr O’Leary believes that non- payroll expenditure worth more than €200m could have been reduced before workers’ salaries needed to be cut.

“There is no railway in the world that makes money. Rail¬ways across Europe are increasing their subvention year on year.

“The Government needs to decide first if it wants a rail service for its citizens or not,” he said.

But Mr Kenny called for “realism” among the leaders of the trade unions.

“They are temporary and modest pay cuts about protecting the company and employment within it,” he said.

THE dispute revolves around pay cuts of between 1.7pc for those earning €56,000 and 6.1pc to workers on over €100,000 lasting for 28 months.

The strike will cost the rail company around €1.3m in customer revenues and public service payments.

The dispute will cost Dublin city businesses more than €25m in lost revenue according to Dublin Town, which represents over 2,500 firms.

Mr Donohoe has said he will not be getting involved in the row, but Fianna Fail transport spokesman Timmy Dooley called on the minister to have discus¬sions with both sides.

Mr O’Leary said a review of the union’s position is to take place in September.

“We are having a review on September 23 and, as far as the NBRU is concerned, they have “a mandate for industrial action including all-out strike”.

Dublin Bus and Luas services will run as normal today.

A spokesperson for Dublin bus said it will try to accommodate all commuters, including those affected by the rail strike, but this morning all available buses were on the road.

Commuters were advised to leave extra time for journeys due to increased passenger numbers.

Meanwhile, Junior Finance Minister Simon Harris today rejected calls for the government to intervene in the Irish Rail strike

Mr Harris insisted all parties must engage in talks and avail of the Industrial Relations mechanisms that are available.

"The State has significant industrial relations structures in place.  It is a matter for both parties of the dispute to avail of those structures and to use those structures," he told Independent.ie this afternoon.

"So obviously, I'd encourage both parties in the dispute to use those structures. It's in everybody's interest, in the travelling publics interest for this issue to resolved.

"The method of intervention should be by way of the industrial relation structures and I encourage all parties to avail of those structures," he added.

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