Sunday 25 February 2018

Minister's rail strike union appeal

Transport minister Paschal Donohoe appealed to trade unions to pull back from strike action
Transport minister Paschal Donohoe appealed to trade unions to pull back from strike action

Transport minister Paschal Donohoe has urged union leaders to call off strike action at Irish Rail this weekend over fears for the operator's survival.

Industrial action planned for Sunday and Monday in protest at pay cuts will grind the rail network to a halt.

Rail chiefs have warned the future of the cash-strapped company is already at stake and a walk-out will only worsen the financial crisis.

Mr Donohoe said he was extremely disappointed that talks had not yet resolved the dispute, but appealed to trade unions NBRU and Siptu to pull back from imminent strike action.

"It will cause considerable inconvenience to rail users, it puts jobs at risk at Irish Rail, and it will add to the further deterioration of the company's financial situation," he said.

Mr Donohoe stressed that every effort was being made to deal with the rail operator's money problems.

"There can be no winners if this strike action goes ahead," he said.

"It will contribute nothing to the company's prospects or to furthering its role in serving the public.

"I am appealing to the unions involved to call off the actions proposed, even at this late stage, in the interest of the future viability of Irish Rail."

The National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) will stage a two-day walkout beginning on Sunday as well as two 24-hour work stoppages on September 7 and September 21.

The last two days of action coincide with the Gaelic Athletic Association All-Ireland hurling and football finals in Dublin's 82,000 capacity Croke Park, traditionally the biggest dates on the annual sporting calender.

Separately, Siptu, the largest trade union in Ireland, is planning a strike at Irish Rail on Monday.

Irish Rail is losing millions of euro every year after a recession-led plunge in revenues and subsidies were slashed, which had been keeping it on track.

Pay cuts as part of a multi-million euro cost-cutting survival strategy have been described as unavoidable by the Labour Court if the operator is to remain in business.

Earlier this month, David Franks, Irish Rail's chief executive, warned of potential bankruptcy if urgent action was not taken to cut costs.

Pay accounted for more than half of spending at Irish Rail, he said.

The company confirmed that senior management had taken a salary cut of 6.1%.

They want workers to take cuts of between 1.7% for those earning 56,000 euro (£44,000) or less - three-quarters of the workforce - up to just over 6% for employees on 100,000 euro (£79,000) or more.

Three other unions accepted the proposals, but Siptu and the NBRU have rejected them.

The pay cuts to be introduced on Sunday are to apply for just over two years as part of a plan to save 17 million euro (£13.5 million), according to Irish Rail.

Last year, the company recorded losses of 16.4 million euro (£13 million).

Press Association

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