Tuesday 24 October 2017

Full steam ahead for rail strike on All-Ireland deciders

Unions calls on government to roll back on cuts

PROTEST: Rail services will be hit
PROTEST: Rail services will be hit
Sarah Stack

Sarah Stack

Rail chiefs have vowed to steam ahead with strike action on the two All-Ireland Sundays.

The National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) defended its decision to start four days of stoppages with a 48 hour walk out on August 24, stating it is the day Irish Rail is due to implement cuts.

General Secretary Dermot O’Leary said staff do not trust management amid claims the company revoked an earlier agreement, and called on the Government and Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe to intervene.

“The strike is going ahead on the basis that the company is going to implement cuts on August 24th, there has been no change to that,” he said.

“We reality is we didn’t pick August 24 starting off, that’s the company’s date .They knew what events were on the horizon and chose that time.

“Our members do not want to go on strike, but no matter when he did it we would discommode somebody.

“We are trying to minimise impact on the public at large who are regular commuters.”

The two-day action will be followed by two 24-hour work stoppages on September 7, the day of the All-Ireland hurling final, and September 21, when the football decider takes place.

Up to 15,000 fans avail of Irish Rail services during All-Ireland Sundays.

The GAA and Government has called for the action to be called off.

Irish Rail, which is at risk of going bust, needs to need to slash almost €17m off its wages bill.

However the union claims Irish Rail has already lost more than 2,000 staff over the last decade while services increased, and that members agreed to a series of cost-cutting measures in 2012 that were meant to last until 2015.

“They’ve come back less than 12 months later asking for pay cuts so you can see straight away the trust factor has gone,” Mr O’Leary said.

In February members voted by a margin of five-to-one against the company's latest cost-cutting plan, which included pay cuts ranging from 1.7pc for 74pc of the workforce earning €56,000 or less - to 6.1pc for high-earners.

Pay for station staff and track workers ranges from about €42,000, while a driver earning €56,000 will lose more than €900 a year, the NBRU said.

The new transport minister previously described the stoppages as "slap in the face" to taxpayers who fund the company to the tune of €290m a year.

In a statement the minister said that in the interest of the viability of Irish Rail and the maintenance of services the cuts outlined have to be implemented.

"Irish Rail has accrued losses of €147m over the period 2008-3014 and these cost saving measures have been subject to four rounds of negotiations," added Mr Donohoe.

"The Labour Court back in April concluded that the measures sought by the company are 'unavoidable if the future of the company and the employment it maintains is to be protected."

However Mr O’Leary said the Government needs to reinstate cuts to its subsidy, down €73m since 2007.

“There’s no railway in the world, besides maybe Japan, that isn’t subsidised,” he added.

“We would say to the minister and government if you want a 2014 service to have to fund it at 2014 levels, not the 1998 level they are funding now.”

While the NBRU represents just 600 staff out of a total of 3,700, all national, intercity and Dart services will be suspended as members are expected to have a presence in most drivers' depots and on all major routes.

Separately, Siptu members will stage a continuous indefinite work to rule, including an overtime and rest day working ban, from August 24 and strike on Monday, August 25.

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