Irish Rail in strike blow for All-Ireland final fans
THE travel plans of thousands of GAA fans could be hit as Irish Rail staff plan work stoppages on two All-Ireland Sundays.
The National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) has announced a total of four days of stoppages in the coming weeks, beginning with a 48-hour work stoppage on August 24.
This is set to be followed by two 24-hour work stoppages on September 7, the day of the All-Ireland hurling final, and September 21, when the football decider takes place.
While the NBRU represents just 600 staff out of a total of 3,700, it is understood it has a presence in most drivers' depots and on all major routes.
This means there is the potential for total stoppage of the network on all dates.
The stoppages will affect Irish Rail services nationwide and DART services in Dublin.
Up to 15,000 fans avail of Irish Rail services during All-Ireland Sundays, while the service typically adds an additional three to four trains along the route of each competing county to cater for added demand.
An Irish Rail spokesman said it could not guarantee any of its services would run on the planned work stoppage dates.
The NBRU made the announcement following a ballot of members, after management at Irish Rail revealed it would be imposing cost-saving measures on August 24.
It comes after SIPTU confirmed its rail workers would strike on August 25, and said it had not ruled out further work stoppages.
In a statement, NBRU general secretary Dermot O'Leary said that while 80pc of members voted for industrial action up to and including an all-out strike, the union's National Executive Council set a strike aside on the basis that "it would unduly discommode the travelling public". He said the decision to choose two 24-hour Sunday stoppages was taken "with a view to dilute the impact on the travelling public as much as possible".
Speaking to the Irish Independent, Mr O'Leary addressed concerns that the stoppages would cause an upheaval for GAA fans in particular.
"Unfortunately that debate has shifted on to that. The council would have felt that Sunday would have been a day that would have the least affect on commuters going to work, or school, or college.
"They also would have looked at the potential impact on businesses on Saturdays, which is a big shopping day."
Chief executive of Irish Rail David Franks urged trade unions not to undertake any action "which disrupts services, worsens our financial situation, and puts all our employment at risk". He said: "I would remind colleagues that the Labour Court has described the measures being implemented as unavoidable if the future of the company and the employment that it maintains is to be protected."
Mr Franks added that as payroll represented more than 60pc of its costs, Irish Rail could not correct its finances without contribution from this area.
The proposals involve a temporary cut to basic pay, ranging from 1.7pc for staff earning €56,000 or less, which is 74pc of the workforce, up to 6.1pc for those earning above €100,000.
The measures have already been introduced for the senior management team, and board members have implemented a reduction in directors' fees.
These had been accepted at ballot by the Transport Salaried Staffs' Association, the Technical Engineering and Electrical Union and Unite, but were rejected by SIPTU and the NBRU.