Chaos looms for rail commuters as pay talks collapse
Travel chaos looms for thousands of rail passengers following the breakdown of pay talks between unions and management last night.
Angry union leaders emerged from the talks with Iarnród Éireann at the Workplace Relations Commission shortly after 9pm to declare they were immediately organising ballots among rail workers for strike action.
They appealed to the Government and Transport Minister Shane Ross to intervene with more funding for public transport.
The chief negotiators for the National Bus and Railworkers Union and (NBRU) and Siptu said their demand for a 3.75pc pay increase was met with "contempt" by Irish Rail.
They said they were offered "a pittance" of a 1.5pc pay rise in return for union agreement to outsourcing of jobs, rail line closures, reductions in contracted working hours and forced redeployment of workers.
Railworkers will be balloted in the coming weeks and the result could mean the issuing of one week's notice of strike action.
NBRU general secretary Dermot O'Leary and Siptu division organiser Greg Ennis said that if matters were not resolved, it would mean strike action could hit the nation's train services around the time of the October Bank Holiday.
The unions would decide themselves what form of strike action it would be, whether it was all-out strike or one-day actions or some other form of strike action, they said.
Irish Rail Human Resources director Ciaran Masterson said the company was €160m in debt and a myriad of different options were discussed in terms of rationalisation.
He said there would be several opportunities in the coming weeks to seek a resolution to the problem.
Siptu's Mr Ennis said the staff could no longer subsidise the company which had suffered severe cuts in State funding.
NBRU's Mr O'Leary said: "It is high time the Minister for Transport does what it says on the tin" and take action to solve the problem.
"After a decade-long pay hiatus, the expectation of a long overdue pay rise for Irish Rail staff has not materialised.
"Our members have looked at colleagues in the public transport sector enjoying pay increases of up to 3.75pc, while Irish Rail is thumbing its nose at its own staff by making a pitiful offer, at a time when passenger numbers and revenue at Irish Rail are at a historical high, it is contemptuous," he said.