Sunday 22 April 2018

NBRU vote overwhelmingly for industrial action as strike at Irish Rail looms

Up to 155,000 rail passengers a day would be affected if a strike goes ahead. Stock picture
Up to 155,000 rail passengers a day would be affected if a strike goes ahead. Stock picture

Anne-Marie Walsh

The National Bus and Rail Workers Union (NBRU) have voted overwhelmingly for industrial action this afternoon, further increasing the prospect of a strike at Irish Rail.

It has been announced that the Union voted 93 per cent in favour of taking industrial action and in a statement their General Secretary Dermot O'Leary was scathing of Irish Rail management.

"Our members have had enough of the type of behaviour witnessed last evening at the WRC when senior management at Irish Rail pulled a potential proposal which we felt could have been presented to our members for consideration.

"It would appear that this company are hell bent on forcing it own staff onto the picket lines and creating an environment which will bring nothing but misery thousands of rail commuters."

Mr O'Leary went on to say that the NBRU would meet with their trade union colleagues later today to agree a "co-ordinated strategy of industrial action" over the coming weeks and in the run-in to Christmas.

Earlier today, a senior Siptu official warned that a strike at Irish Rail over workers' demand for the same pay rise as Luas and Dublin Bus workers is now likely to go ahead.

Speaking at the Siptu biennial conference in Cork, Vice President Gene Mealy said that the row is likely to end in industrial action and the union would fully support rail workers in that "fight".

He said a chief aim of the union is to ensure public transport is funded appropriately while taking "strategic" industrial action "where necessary".

Mr Mealy said this was to ensure that transport workers are not "used" to subsidise public transport in Ireland as had been attempted during a recent dispute at Bus Éireann.

The warning comes as unions are currently balloting their members on strike action and their decision will be announced in just over two weeks.

Industrial action could begin as early as the October Bank Holiday weekend.

Talks on the pay claim broke down at the Workplace Relations Commission last week when the company would not move above an offer of a 1.5pc increase, when unions wanted 3.75pc a year.

Sources said Irish Rail also pushed for the closure of four lines that receive the highest state subvention – Limerick to Ballybrophy, Ennis to Athenry, Gorey to Rosslare and Limerick Junction to Waterford.

Mr Mealy also warned Taoiseach Leo Varadkar that if he moves beyond his threat to restrict strikes in essential services, unions will "bite back".

He said Brexit could cost 40,000 jobs over 10 years following the UK departure.

A retraining fund to enable workers facing redundancy in vulnerable sectors to transition to new jobs should be set up, he said.

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