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Irish Rail boss faces breakdown of staff's trust


Irish Rail chief David Franks

Irish Rail chief David Franks

Irish Rail chief David Franks

Exactly one year ago, Irish Rail chief executive David Franks was holidaying on the paradise island of Mauritius as his staff prepared to walk off the job.

But as it became clear that rail workers were not bluffing by their threat to strike for the first time in 13 years, Mr Franks opted to cut his summer holiday short.

The stoppages took place in a move that caused chaos for commuters and cost the already troubled semi-state company dearly in terms of revenue.

Fast forward 12 months and the challenges facing Mr Franks, who is on an annual salary of €211,000, are on an enormous scale.

A second wave of industrial action, this time involving disgruntled train drivers, is on the cards in the coming weeks.

Drivers are angry over their pay and conditions and believe it is now time to see boosts in their incomes.

The matter is destined for the Labour Relations Commission on September 8. However, unions say balloting for strike action is a likely option. But from the travelling public's perspective, the draft findings of a safety audit commissioned by the Railway Safety Commission (RSC) will prove alarming.

The audit details a myriad of issues facing Mr Franks and his officials, such as poor staff morale and a major resistance to organisational change.

Irish Rail is not unique in dealing with issues such as these.

But revelations that staff are failing to report 'near misses' for fear of blame or repercussions for themselves will cause unease in the minds of rail passengers.

Irish Rail often excels in areas such as customer satisfaction.

The company also points to the fact that it has one of the best safety records in Europe.

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But quite clearly, as illustrated by this draft audit and supported by the views of trade unions, work is urgently required to build trust between staff and senior management.

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