Monday 20 August 2018

New threat of chaos for passengers as rail strike looms and buses cancelled

  • A rail strike that would hit Dart and commuter services now looms
  • Bus Éireann passengers still being left stranded due to cancellations
  • Up to 155,000 rail passengers a day would be affected if strike goes ahead
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

A rail strike that would hit Dart and commuter services now looms - while Bus Éireann passengers are still being left stranded due to cancellations.

Unions have warned they may hold immediate ballots for industrial action following crunch talks on a pay rise today.

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

Irish Rail is due to meet unions at the Workplace Relations Commission to discuss the 3.75pc-a-year wage claim, which was given to Luas and Dublin Bus drivers.

The company has warned that the increase would push it to the brink of insolvency.

General secretary of the National Bus and Railworkers Union (NBRU) Dermot O'Leary, has warned that there will be a strike at Irish Rail.

He said unless the company puts a "credible" offer on the table at today's talks, there will be an immediate ballot.

Siptu division organiser Greg Ennis said industrial action is unavoidable without "movement on pay" and warned today's talks may be the last chance for progress.

He said Siptu members do not wish to see a similar shut down of the rail network as occurred at Bus Éireann for three weeks earlier this year.

"However, our almost 2,000 members in Irish Rail will use all the leverage at their disposal in their pursuit of a legitimate pay claim which follows almost 10 years of a pay freeze."

However, if the company makes a lower offer - that might for instance mirror the 2pc to 2.5pc increases recently awarded in the public sector and at An Post - the unions may put this to their members in a ballot.

Irish Rail spokesman Barry Kenny said its negotiation team will "positively engage" at the Workplace Relations Commission and trusted unions would do so "despite the NBRU issuing pre-emptive strike threats".

"We have been open and clear with our trade unions on our financial position, which remains extremely challenging, with insolvency looming if we make further losses," he said.

He added that it was "clearly untrue" that a uniform approach to pay has been taken across the public transport sector.

He said the Labour Court requested the company and trade unions return to the Workplace Relations Commission for talks for up to five weeks.

Of the 155,000 journeys made on rail services every day, 70,000 are made on the Dart, 45,000 on commuter services and 40,000 on intercity lines.

Meanwhile, Bus Éireann said there were further disruptions in the eastern region again yesterday, partly due to drivers ringing in sick. Services on the NX route, route 109, and route 126 were cancelled.

The NBRU has warned there may be a "flashpoint" when permanent rosters on the buses are rolled out at the end of next month.

Siptu accused Bus Éireann of trying to blame drivers for service failures by saying they were due to absenteeism. Organiser Willie Noone said drivers had to work shifts of nearly 13 hours, with short breaks in remote locations where they could not go to the toilet.

Irish Independent

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