Tuesday 22 May 2018

10 minute DART row escalates as Irish Rail threaten staff with legal action

The more regular service had been due to start on April 10
The more regular service had been due to start on April 10

Anne-Marie Walsh Industry Correspondent

A row over a new 10 minute DART service has ramped up after Irish Rail threatened staff with High Court action for refusing to train in new drivers.

An Irish Rail spokesman said the threat was made because unofficial industrial action is taking place.

Passengers are facing the prospect of disruption on the electric rail system that runs between Greystones and Howth as the National Bus and Railworkers Union and Siptu have voted in favour of industrial actio, up to strike action, if the company imposes the more frequent service without agreement.

An Irish Rail spokesman said the company "needs to be able to progress this service". "There are options open to us including legal options,” he said.

The new service that would increase the frequency of trains from the every 15 minutes was due to begin on April 10. It was put on hold after the unions refused to attend talks until the company deals with a pay claim they lodged.

The Nbru denied it has had any role in coordinating unofficial action and said drivers were not obliged to train in new drivers under their contracts.

In a letter to the union, Irish Rail said a number of drivers refused “en bloc” to allow the new recruits into their cabs to get used to operating the trains.

It claimed their refusal to “undertake their duties” by training new drivers is a breach of their contract of employment and unofficial industrial action, which breaches legislation.

“I now require you to immediately inform your members to cease this unlawful activity,” said the letter from Director of Human Resources, Ciaran Masterson. “Failure to do so will result in action being taken against Siptu and the Nbru.”

It said it would initiate High Court proceedings that would include an application for an injunction to prohibit the “unlawful action”.

In a response on behalf of the Nbru, legal firm Philip Lee said it was “outrageous” for Irish Rail to threaten its client as it was “patently the case” that it has no grounds for such a threat.

It said the suggestion that the union had coordinated industrial action was utterly false, and it was up to its members to decide if they wanted to volunteer to provide training.

It said the participation of drivers in the training regime was “entirely voluntary” and they could not be compelled to do so as there was no contractual obligation on them.

The letter referred to a letter from Irish Rail on June 25 last year, in which it said: “it is accepted that the current mentoring system is voluntarist in nature and as such drivers can elect to mentor as appropriate.”

The National Bus and Railworkers Union said it would vigorously defend its integrity as a trade union and said any industrial action it undertakes only begins after it gets a mandate from members.

It accused Irish Rail of skulduggery by making the court threat.

"Irish Rail has reached a new low by threatening staff and trade unions with High Court action over what is clearly a matter of individual choice for drivers,” said General Secretary Dermot O’Leary.

He said this “aggressive Thatcherite type reaction” showed how "devoid of ideas" those who run the company are. “It is nothing short of appalling that a state owned organisation would resort to such skulduggery,” he added.

He said the “Tory style attack”, and Luas operator Transdev’s recent “disgraceful intimidatory tactics” took obvious advantage of the “political vacuum”. ” Transdev has put its employees on protective notice after they served notice of numerous strikes.

Previously, Irish Rail warned unions it will seek cuts worth €1.4m if it fails to introduce the new service.

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