Thursday 22 August 2019

Commuters face delays as rail strike to go ahead

Irish Rail chief executive David Franks sent a letter to staff
Irish Rail chief executive David Franks sent a letter to staff

Niall O'Connor

Irish Rail has admitted it is "pessimistic" about the prospect of averting Friday's planned strike action by train drivers after relations between the company and trade unions were at their most strained in years.

It now appears inevitable that some 40,000 commuters will be discommoded for the second time in a fortnight as Irish Rail workers prepare to down tools between the hours of 6 and 9am.

But the prospect of further strike action beyond Friday has been heightened following a bizarre row over a letter sent to workers by Irish Rail chief David Franks.

Mr Franks, who earns an annual salary of €211,000, described the demands being tabled on behalf of workers as "unaffordable".

And he accused the National Bus and Railway Union (NBRU) and Siptu of creating "false expectations" following the decision to seek a reduced working week and changes to productivity.

Last night, both unions claimed that a significant number of their members have handed back the letters, while many others refused to read the contents.

Asked about workers' reaction to Mr Franks' letter, NBRU General Secretary Dermot O'Leary said workers are "very angry".

Siptu organiser Paul Cullen wrote to Mr Franks last night, describing the letter to staff as "most unhelpful".

"It is a clear attempt to alienate negotiators and this trade union from its members," he said.

Speaking last night, Irish Rail spokesman Barry Kenny claimed the "vast majority" of workers accepted Mr Franks' letter.

"But as is always the case with such communication, there is a small number who do not, particularly when we are in an industrial dispute situation.

"But there was certainly nothing remarkable or surprising," he added.

Unlike during the negotiations leading up to previous strike action, all parties appear to have conceded that the work stoppages will go ahead despite the negotiations at the Workplace Relations Commission.

Irish Rail says its proposals will see an increase in drivers' earnings of up to 7.9pc.

There will also be an opportunity for drivers to apply for a voluntary severance package.

But unions have rejected the proposals.

Last night, a spokeswoman for Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe said the deal proposed by Irish Rail is "reasonable", adding that the minister hopes Friday's strike will be averted.

"The company is still losing in excess of €1m a month and the industrial relations machinery of the State is best placed to resolve these issues," she added.

Irish Independent

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