Tuesday 23 January 2018

Labour Court called in as rail unions reject pay cuts

Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport Leo Varadkar TD. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport Leo Varadkar TD. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

Martin Frawley

COMMUTERS face the prospect of another summer of travel chaos after unions at Irish Rail overwhelmingly rejected compromise proposals on a cost-saving plan.

The dispute between Irish Rail and unions is being referred "urgently" to the Labour Court in a bid to break the impasse.

Unions have agreed to the referral, probably early next week, after members rejected the latest plan for pay cuts.

A company spokesman said that the savings of €25m over the next four years were essential to secure the financial viability of the state company.

It claims that each week that passes, without the savings, costs the company an additional €100,000.

Transport Minister Leo Varadkar and Minister of State Alan Kelly expressed "deep disappointment" at the outcome of the unions' ballot.

However, they said that there has already been substantial fare increases "and there is no scope for an increase in the government subvention".

Mr Varadkar said the proposed pay cuts had to be delivered. "We do need the payroll savings. The average salary per employee is now higher than when it was when the economy crashed in 2008," he added.

He said railway was a very expensive way to deliver public transport.

Last summer, disputes over similar cost-savings plans at Bus Eireann sparked a two-day strike in May and three-day strike in Dublin Bus in August.

Yesterday, SIPTU and the NBRU, which represent the vast majority of Irish Rail's 4,000 employees, voted 71pc and 82pc respectively against compromise proposals on the company's cost-savings plan worked out at the Labour Relations Commission earlier this month.

The smaller Unite and TEEU unions narrowly rejected the proposals while the Tssa, which represents 400 clerical staff, voted 73pc in favour.

Dermot O'Leary, of the NBRU, said the Government's subvention to Irish Rail had been slashed from €192m in 2008 to €117m this year.

Irish Independent

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