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Monday 15 September 2014

Minister urges rail workers to call off strike

Luke Byrne and Niall O’Connor

Published 22/08/2014 | 12:40

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Paschal Donohoe
Paschal Donohoe

TRANSPORT Minister Paschal Donohoe has called on workers at Irish Rail not to go on strike this weekend over unilateral wage cuts.

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The minister said that the proposed action by rail workers would impact on 90,000 people and further damage the financial situation at the company.

“The country has very strong bodies in place to deal with industrial relations, through the Labour Court and through the Labour Relations Committee.

“I continue to emphasise two points,” Mr Donohoe said, speaking about his response to the proposed industrial action, on RTE’s Morning Ireland.

“First, that with the time that is still available that this strike should not go ahead – 90,000 people are going to be inconvenienced across these days over a temporary wage cut of 1.7pc.

“The second point is that if these go ahead, and it’s likely that at least one will at this stage, that it will make a very difficult situation within Irish Rail even more fraught,” he said.

The minister said it was his intention to maintain the subvention received by Irish Rail to run the service next year and not seek a reduction.

“But what I cannot do at this stage is find money from the taxpayer, within my department, to offset a wage cut that has already been implemented across the rest of the CIE group,” he said.

Meanwhile, an Irish Rail spokesman this morning described the threatened strike action as “insanity”, adding: “it shouldn’t go ahead”.

The company’s boss David Franks is cutting short his holiday in Mauritius after coming under criticism from union leaders and opposition TDs.

HOLIDAY

The company last night said Mr Franks will return to work a day earlier than planned to prepare for the first all-out rail strike in 13 years.

The National Bus and Railworkers Union (NBRU) expressed shock this week after it was revealed that Mr Franks, who earns €211,000 per year, went on holiday to the Indian Ocean island just days before the network is brought to a halt.

“With NBRU and SIPTU intent on progressing with this industrial action – despite the effect on our customers, on the company’s finances, and on the security of employment of the workforce – Mr Franks has brought his travel arrangements home to Ireland forward and will travel on Saturday to continue to lead the management of the situation,” an Irish Rail spokesperson said.

The decision by Mr Franks to return home this weekend was welcomed by Mr Donohoe.

Meanwhile, both unions at the centre of the dispute are refusing to budge on the industrial action, scheduled to begin on Sunday.

“There can be no winners if this strike action goes ahead. It will contribute nothing to the company’s prospects or to furthering its role in serving the public.

“I am appealing to the unions involved to call off the actions.”

Speaking to the Herald, NBRU general secretary Dermot O’Leary accused the minister of continuously

criticising workers at the semi-state company.

“The minister would be better minded to concentrate on the issues at play here – the fact that pay cuts are coming in on Sunday – instead of focusing on the workers,” he said.

SIPTU organiser Owen Reidy said the company needs to find other ways of saving money rather than slashing pay.

“The only way the dispute will be called off is if Irish Rail confirm they won’t cut pay on Sunday.

“There has been nothing from the company to suggest they will consider doing that,” he said.

Criticising

Without a last-minute intervention, the first all-out rail strike since 2001 will begin this weekend, causing major disruption for GAA fans planning to attend the All-Ireland senior football semi-final between Mayo and Kerry in Croke Park.

The 48-hour stoppage on Sunday and Monday will be followed by a stoppage on September 7, the day of the All-

Ireland hurling final, and  September 8.

There will also be a stoppage on September 21, the day when the Gaelic football decider takes place.

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