Irish Rail wage deal at risk over 'minister's meddling'
UNIONS have warned that a row over €1,000-a-year pay reductions at Irish Rail has become even more bitter after the Transport Minister signalled more cuts.
Hopes of a deal on the wage reductions getting over the line are in doubt after a major union accused Leo Varadkar of "constant interference".
The National Bus and Railworkers' Union (NBRU), representing 600 staff, said the minister had made the task of finding a solution to the row at the Labour Court next week much worse.
"The constant interference by the minister and his negative view in relation to the rail company is making the task of finding a solution even more difficult," said NBRU General Secretary Dermot O'Leary.
"The expectation that staff would sacrifice pay at a time when the main Irish Rail shareholder, in the guise of the minister, is scathing with regard to its future makes the prospect of a solution extremely difficult.
"If the minister is interfering constantly and disparaging the company and its future, how are people expected to buy into that?" SIPTU organiser, Paul Cullen, said his comments would only harden the attitude of staff "who have given everything since 2008 with nothing in return."
Mr Varadkar warned that government funding to Irish Rail would be cut and diverted to bus services unless it slashed costs and got more passengers.
He said he was "genuinely worried" that staff and possibly the company did not understand the gravity of the situation and was concerned about disagreement over the cuts.
Irish Rail and the NBRU, SIPTU, UNITE and craft unions will attend the Labour Court on Monday, which will attempt to reach a compromise on the cost-cutting measures, which staff rejected earlier this year.
The cost-cutting plan aims to raise €25m in the next four years, with €4.6m from yearly payroll costs.
Pay cuts range from 1.7pc of wages up to €56,000 to 6.1pc for more than 40 individuals who earn over €100,000.
It is estimated that it would cost a train driver with around 10 years' service between €850 and €1,000 a year.
However, wage rates will return to normal after three years. Other cuts in the plan include measures to stop staff gathering accrued holiday leave.
The plan says they must 'use it or lose it'.
Irish Rail's pay and pensions bill makes up 60pc of its costs.