LRC talks aim to halt second wave of rail strike action
Officals at the Labour Relations Commission will today make a fresh bid to broker a deal between the parties involved in the bitter rail dispute.
SIPTU and the National Bus and Railworkers' Union (NBRU) will come face-to-face with Irish Rail management just days after pay cuts were imposed on workers.
Among the issues due to be discussed is a second wave of strike action planned for next weekend - a move that will cause travel chaos for tens of thousands of GAA fans due to attend the All-Ireland hurling final in Croke Park.
The Irish Independent understands that LRC officials extended the invitation to unions and company management yesterday after being in contact Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe.
Unions are expected to be asked to call off the strike and engage in formal talks. But union sources insisted that this will only happen if Irish Rail agrees to postpone the pay cuts which took effect on Sunday.
"It's very difficult to see how we would call this strike off because the gap between the two parties is huge. Unless Irish Rail bring some new thinking to the table, this strike will go ahead," said a union source.
While figures involved in today's negotiations said that they are merely "exploratory", it is significant that unions have agreed to meet Irish Rail management just days after they forged ahead with implementing pay cuts.
"Like in any negotiations, there is always common ground - that's what these talks will aim to establish," noted one source.
Mr Donohoe has been criticised for his handling of the rail crisis and came under fire from Fianna Fail after he said the strike action was a "slap in the face" for taxpayers.
But his argument that the State's industrial relations mechanisms were well equipped to deal with the dispute may prove to be correct.
The NBRU - which represents 600 rail workers - said the talks will focus on more than just pay cuts.
"We understand that this invitation is designed to establish if there is a basis for further discussions around a more comprehensive agenda rather then one which has a disproportionate focus on our members wages, we will engage with the commission on this basis," said NBRU general secretary Dermot O'Leary.
Today's talks will be watched closely by the GAA as it prepares to host the All-Ireland hurling final between Tipperary and Kilkenny. The strike scheduled for next weekend is set to be followed by further industrial action on September 21, when the football decider takes place.
The industrial action is in response to temporary pay cuts which the Labour Court recommended should apply for 28 months.