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Tuesday 16 January 2018

Commuter chaos: Talks collapse, rail strike set for Friday morning

Trains (stock photo)
Trains (stock photo)

Mark O'Regan and Geraldine Gittens

Talks between Iarnrod Eireann and trade unions Siptu and NBRU in a bid to halt strike action on Friday morning have collapsed.

The discussion between unions and Irish Rail in the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) failed to find a resolution to avert the Bank Holiday weekend strike action.

Thousands of rail commuters will now be inconvenienced Friday morning by the strike action between 6am and 9am.

NBRU have blamed the company for the collapse of talks.

General Secretary Dermot O'Leary said:

"It is unfortunate that it took until the 11th Hour for the real company agenda to emerge, they continuously and quite deliberately chose to ignore our members agenda in relation to past contributions, this coupled with their excessive  expectations in relation to future productivity far exceeded their public position of attending at the WRC to do a deal to prevent disruption to services, all designed, we feel to provoke our members to the point where they now feel that they have no option but to engage in Industrial Action on Friday next.

He continued: "On the back of two disputes within a year, proceeded, it should be noted, by over fourteen years of Industrial peace, it is long since past time when the taxpayer should be asking their elected representatives, who exactly is running Irish Rail."

Meanwhile, Iarnród Eireann have apologised for the inconvenience caused to customers tomorrow.

In a statement, they said: "Iarnród Éireann regrets to inform customers that tomorrow’s industrial action by SIPTU and NBRU train drivers is set to proceed, resulting in disruption to tens of thousands of rail customers across Intercity, DART and Commuter services.  We apologise for the inconvenience caused to travel plans by this industrial action.

 "It proceeds despite our best efforts to resolve the issues under discussion,  productivity proposals were put to trade unions which would have delivered an increase in earnings for drivers of up to 7.9pc between February 2016 and January 2018. 

"The company is extremely disappointed that trade unions prevented their members from the opportunity of achieving this favourable benefit from the productivity measures sought.

"Unions were seeking a shorter working week, a measure which would have cost the company an additional €2.75 million annually and reduced productivity."

Customers can see full service arrangements at:

  • Services which depart prior to 06.00hrs will operate as normal. This does not include the 05.20hrs Westport to Heuston, which will operate to Athlone only.
  • All services scheduled to depart between 06.00hrs and 09.00hrs are cancelled.
  • There will be some consequent disruption after 09.00hrs, and full details are on the link above.

Online customers who are booked to travel during the hours of disruption on Friday can use their tickets on any of the following services and no surcharge will apply:

  • Friday 23rd October, at a later time
  • Saturday 24th October, at any time

Other information includes:

  • Customers can also submit their ticket and receive a full refund.
  • Customers who purchase their tickets at the station who were impacted by the industrial action should collect a refund form at the station or download a refund form and apply to Customer Care, Iarnród Éireann, Connolly Station, Dublin 1.
  • Taxsaver Customers can apply for a refund if their travel plans were impacted by the Industrial Action. We would advise customers impacted on the 23rd October to apply from Tuesday 27th October onwards, through this Taxsaver form.

IBEC has warned that the strike action will come at a huge cost to Ireland's economy, as workers, shoppers and tourists, will be unable to make their planned train journeys.

Paul Quinn, who has been commuting by train for more than 10 years told "I think what annoys me most about the proposed strike action tomorrow is that they’re punishing their most loyal customers, the workers, who buy weekly, monthly and annual tickets."

"My annual ticket from Dundalk to Dun Loaghaire has nearly increased 50pc in the last five to seven years and up until now I’ve stuck by them, even though services are probably worse now than years ago. I will seriously consider other public transport options if these strike days go ahead," he said.

Read more: #Irish Rail strike: Have your say - how will the strike affect you?

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.

Maeve McElwee, head of Industrial Relations and Human Resources at Ibec said workers and companies will be forced to look at alternative ways of getting to work.

“It does have a very significant cost across the economy, even just from the point of view of business in the city centre, people getting to various events, people coming in for shopping, coming for tourism and recreational activities. All of those get diverted. People make other arrangements; tourists simply change their plans and postpone their trips and don’t take the journeys.”

Ms McElwee said companies will be advising staff on alternative ways to get to work.

“The whole issue of staff not being able to get into work is a huge issue. Companies are having to make alternative arrangements, giving people leave, trying to arrange some sort of flexitime. It’s the peak time of people travelling to work.

“Mostly employers will go out and see what they can do and have contingencies in place. They’ll look at car pooling opportunities, some companies will look at transport opportunities for staff, or if they can work from home.”

“Planned activities and where people would have spent money on the economy, the money isn’t there," Ms McElwee added.

Private bus companies will increase the number of buses on the road, she said.

“For people who are inevitably late, many companies allow people to work up some time.”

The talks between unions and Irish Rail in the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) broke down - that concluded at 3.30am - were set to resume at 11.30am this morning.

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