Wednesday 28 September 2016

Same-day strikes on both the buses and trains loom down the track

Published 09/09/2016 | 02:30

Heavy traffic this evening in Phibsborough due to the bus strike. Picture credit; Damien Eagers
Heavy traffic this evening in Phibsborough due to the bus strike. Picture credit; Damien Eagers

Commuters face the prospect of industrial action on the trains on the same day as bus strikes in the coming months.

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Travel chaos could result from the failure to resolve the current dispute at Dublin Bus, coupled with a breakdown of negotiations over productivity and pay at Irish Rail.

Unions have criticised Transport Minister Shane Ross and threatened to step up their industrial action, with the prospect of an all-out strike looming. Pic Tom Burke
Unions have criticised Transport Minister Shane Ross and threatened to step up their industrial action, with the prospect of an all-out strike looming. Pic Tom Burke

More than 400,000 commuters in Dublin will be inconvenienced again today, as the row at Dublin Bus shows no sign of abating.

Now a Siptu official involved in negotiations on behalf of workers at Irish Rail said that while the eventuality of same-day strikes was down the line, it could not be ruled out.

"If the Dublin Bus dispute rolls on, it is a possibility," assistant divisional organiser Paul Cullen told the Irish Independent.

Two distinct industrial relations issues have been rumbling on at Irish Rail, including productivity discussions specific to the driver grade at the company.

Separately, employees across all grades are awaiting a response from management on a pay claim similar to that which has caused unrest at Dublin Bus - around 15pc, and 6pc deferred from 2008.

In the case of Dublin Bus, workers have sought a payment in lieu of the 6pc increase, which was deferred during the crisis.

Read more: As it happened: Traffic chaos on the streets as Dublin deals with bus strikes in rush hour

"You couldn't rule anything in or out at this stage," Mr Cullen said, when asked if staff at Irish Rail staff would be balloted for industrial action.

Mr Cullen stressed that negotiations between unions and Irish Rail management were ongoing.

"If the pay offer falls short of members' expectations, (strike action) could be a possibility," he added.

A total of 515 of Irish Rail's 3,800 employees are drivers on services including the Dart and inter-county trains.

Late last year, Irish Rail management floated the idea of Dart services every 10 minutes.

However, a spokesperson for the company confirmed the proposal was now off the table, following resistance from drivers.

Talks facilitated by the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) began this week aimed at hammering out a deal on the duration of the working week for train drivers, as well as around driver training. Unions, including Siptu and the National Bus and Railway Workers' Union (NBRU), have been representing train drivers.

They have sought a reduction in the working hours in line with train drivers in the UK where the working week is 35 hours, compared to 48 hours here.

The company said it hoped the discussions would result in benefits both for drivers and the company.

"We are looking for increases in productivity and efficient ways to do more, splitting the benefits between the drivers and the company," the Irish Rail spokesperson said.

According to Irish Rail, Dart passengers made an extra 1.6m journeys, a rise of over 10pc, last year compared with two years previously.

Dublin Bus workers have already said they would strike next Thursday and Friday and on the following Friday and Saturday.

It is understood the issue was raised at a Cabinet meeting yesterday.

The Taoiseach led a discussion where the bus strike was one of the main items on the agenda.

Unions have criticised Transport Minister Shane Ross and threatened to step up their industrial action, with the prospect of an all-out strike looming.

Irish Independent

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