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Sunday 18 August 2019

Irish Rail strike off for now as unions to ballot on pay deal

NBRU’s Dermot O’Leary said it was ‘the best deal achievable’. Picture: Collins
NBRU’s Dermot O’Leary said it was ‘the best deal achievable’. Picture: Collins

Allison Bray

Thousands of rail passengers and soccer fans are breathing a sigh of relief after unions agreed to suspend their rail strike action on foot of a Labour Court recommendation.

The breakthrough means a series of three 24-hour rolling strikes scheduled for November 14, November 23 and December 8 have been suspended pending the outcome of a ballot by union members.

The strikes would have coincided with Tuesday's soccer World Cup play-off clash with Denmark at Dublin's Aviva Stadium and would have brought all Dart, Commuter and InterCity trains to a halt - causing chaos for thousands of fans travelling to the capital for the match.

Instead, Irish Rail will be putting on additional trains across all three services to cater for those attending game.

The development came shortly after 6pm yesterday when Iarnród Éireann issued a statement welcoming the suspension of industrial action for the time being.

Under the terms of the recommendation, workers will get a 2.5pc pay increase each year for three years, starting on December 1. They will also be entitled to a once-off €500 bonus voucher payable in December "recognising the efforts of staff over the last 10 years" as a "once off goodwill gesture".

Dermot O'Leary, general secretary of the National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU), said the recommendation was accepted jointly by the five unions representing Irish Rail staff as "the best deal that can be achieved in these circumstances".

However, he fell short of saying that the unions would be pushing their members to accept the deal.

But Willie Quigley, Regional officer for the Unite trade union, said the offer "is as good as it's going to get".

"It's a big improvement on what was at the WRC [Workplace Relations Commission]," he said.

"We'll put it to our members that it's the best that's achievable" he told the Irish Independent.

Although the strike left around 155,000 rail passengers and commuters scrambling for alternative transport when the network ground to a halt on November 1 and November 7, he said there was "overwhelming support" from the public for the industrial action.

"I think the two days of strikes worked," he said. "The message here is this is what our members deserve."

Meanwhile, Transport Minister Shane Ross said the development was "very welcome news".

"Passengers, workers and the company all need to see this dispute resolved in a realistic, fair and sustainable manner. It was a positive step earlier this week when the two parties to the dispute accepted the Labour Court's invitation to a hearing, and it is very welcome news today that the Court has now issued its considered recommendation," he said.

"I am sure the travelling public welcomes the announcement that the unions are suspending industrial action while the ballot takes place."

Irish Rail spokesman Barry Kenny thanked the Labour Court for the sense of "urgency" in which it heard the matter and issued its recommendation.

"The company is reviewing the court's recommendation in the context of its challenging financial position," he said.

Irish Independent

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