Saturday 24 September 2016

Rail chaos looms as talks as yet unable to halt strike

Emma Jane Hade and Mark O'Regan

Published 22/10/2015 | 02:30

The three-hour work stoppage is set to hit Irish Rail customers who use the commuter and Dart lines between 6am and 9am
The three-hour work stoppage is set to hit Irish Rail customers who use the commuter and Dart lines between 6am and 9am

Talks between unions and Irish Rail in the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) broke down in the early hours of this morning, so far failing to find a resolution to avert the Bank Holiday weekend strike action.

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Commuters are being warned to brace themselves for rail chaos tomorrow, as train drivers are preparing to participate in a work stoppage during morning rush hour.

The three-hour work stoppage is set to hit Irish Rail customers who use the commuter and Dart lines between 6am and 9am.

The talks - that concluded at 3.30am - are set to resume at 11.30am this morning.

The unions representing the drivers, Siptu and the National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU), have said that their members balloted in favour of industrial action over past productivity issues.

Talks about this issue broke down in the WRC as recently as last week, however all parties agreed to return to the table earlier this week.

Iarnród Éireann has said customers who purchase their tickets through their company as part of the Taxsaver scheme can apply for a refund for the day that their travel plans were impacted by the Industrial Action.

The Taxsaver refund form is available through the Irish Rail website, and should be completed from Tuesday October 27.

How will the Irish Rail strike affect you? We want to hear your story. Tell us by emailing contact@independent.ie, or use #IndoSubmit on Twitter.

Marathon discussions were adjourned in the early hours of Wednesday morning without resolution, but all parties agreed to return to the table yesterday afternoon.

The NBRU claimed the previous attempts to halt the action broke down as Irish Rail was not "willing to engage on the past productivity element from a 2014 LRC agreement. They say yesterday was their sixth day in the WRC over this issue.

Siptu also said the semi-state company were "reneging on a commitment to reward past productivity issues".

Speaking after Tuesday night's discussion, NBRU general secretary Dermot O'Leary said they had made "no appreciable or significant progress".

He said they agreed to return to the table yesterday afternoon "in one final attempt to resolve the issues at the centre of the dispute".

"Whilst we have been more than prepared to accept our responsibilities in working towards a resolution on behalf of customers and staff alike, it seems to us that after six long and frustrating days at the WRC that commitment is not being matched by the company," Mr O'Leary added.

They had previously warned that unless a resolution is found, the dispute may escalate to a second day of nationwide stoppages on November 6.

Irish Rail last night said it has "engaged positively and continuously on all productivity issues".

Savings

Irish Rail said they believe "there is a basis to achieve cost savings and resulting benefit for the company and improved earnings for drivers".

Transport Minister, Paschal Donohoe, said there will be "no winners" if an eleventh-hour resolution is not reached.

"I just want to emphasise how serious this situation now is," he said.

"If these strikes go ahead the only losers on Friday morning are going to be commuters all over our country.

"I'm eager and very determined that the discussions that are now underway in the Workplace and Relations Commission do yield a result in relation to that matter, and that all work is put in place to ensure that the strikes are called off.

"Any agreement, any changes that might be made, can only be made out of any savings that accrue from productivity within that company.

"It must be productivity that everybody in Irish Rail is able to track, monitor and ensure that it's verifiable."

Should the strike action go ahead, it will make a perilous financial situation at the company even worse, he added.

"It is the current employees of Irish Rail who will be unfortunately dealing with the consequences of that. We will have losers all over our country, and commuters who will not be able to go about their daily business. It will cause terrible difficulty and upheaval during one of the busiest weekends for Irish Rail during the year."

Irish Independent

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