Donohoe moves to avert strike at Irish Rail
Trade union leaders are standing by their threat of strike action at Irish Rail, despite warnings that such a move would cause "great damage" to the future of the company.
Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe expressed deep concern about the prospect of work stoppages - and urged both unions and management to address their dispute under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission (LRC).
The Irish Independent understands that the LRC has set a date of September 8 to allow talks between unions and management to take place.
But Mr Donohoe suggested that major investments at Irish Rail would be "jeopardised" if a fresh wave of strike action is launched.
The Fine Gael politician issued the warning after announcing a new €14m tunnel at Heuston Station, which he says will benefit an additional one million passengers.
"As a result of all of this and as a result of the additional demand for public transport, we now estimate that at the end of this year, an additional one million passengers will have used Irish Rail services and I think it would do great damage to all concerned if that kind of progress was to be disrupted by additional industrial action," Mr Donohoe said.
"I, therefore, urge everybody who is involved in these negotiations at the moment, whether they be management or unions, to make full use of the LRC to ensure these discussions can be concluded in a way that does not disrupt the progress Irish Rail is now making," the minister added.
As revealed by the Irish Independent this week, train drivers are becoming increasingly angry about pay and conditions.
Morale among workers at the semi-state company has also plummeted as a result of a series of safety concerns.
Last night, both SIPTU and the National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) said the threat of strike action remained in place.
NBRU General Secretary Dermot O'Leary said any failure by the company to properly engage about issues such as productivity will "precipitate a dispute".
He added that "ignoring our members' concerns can only but bring the prospect of industrial action closer to reality".
SIPTU organiser Paul Cullen told the Irish Independent that the anger among workers is serious.
"Therefore, from our perspective, the situation remains the same and the prospect of industrial action at the company remains under consideration," Mr Cullen added.
The fresh tensions between workers and Irish Rail management have emerged almost a year after a nationwide strike by rail workers caused disruption for tens of thousands of passengers.
But plans by workers to strike on the days of the All-Ireland football and hurling finals last September were abandoned after intervention by the Labour Relations Commission (LRC).
A last minute deal struck between unions and management involved the freezing of controversial cost saving measures while further discussions took place at the LRC.
But union figures say these discussions have proven "unsatisfactory" and are considering balloting members next month about the prospect of strike action.
Sources have said that any such strike action could be targeted at early morning DART services in a move that would cause chaos for commuters and school children.
Asked whether he accepted the legitimacy of the workers' concerns, Mr Donohoe said these issues should be discussed at the LRC.
"That's why the LRC work is so important. They offer the space and professionalism in which differing views can be heard and which resolution and agreement can be founded," the Dublin Central TD said.
Fianna Fáil Transport spokesperson Timmy Dooley called on Mr Donohoe to show a "greater level of understanding" towards the concerns of workers.