Tuesday 22 May 2018

Irish Rail accuses unions of blocking training of new DART drivers

Irish Rail has accused unions of blocking the training of nine new DART drivers.
Irish Rail has accused unions of blocking the training of nine new DART drivers.

Anne-Marie Walsh Industry Correspondent

IRISH Rail has accused unions of blocking the training of nine new DART drivers.

The accusation came after the NBRU and SIPTU threatened industrial action if the company refuses to reduce its 540 drivers’ working week.

Irish Rail said it is willing to address all issues arising from an independent report recommended by the Labour Court that was discussed at talks yesterday.

The report included recommendations on driver productivity and their working week.

It was commissioned by the court following a four hour stoppage last October and a last minute postponement of a further strike the following month.

However, Irish Rail said a “continuing organised withdrawal of cooperation” by drivers with the training of new drivers must be addressed.

“Nine trainees in DART are being prevented from completing training, affecting the company’s ability to respond to the needs of customers in the future,” it said in a statement.

It said unions have already withdrawn cooperation with a new 10-minute DART service.

“Non-cooperation with training has emerged on multiple occasions as we seek to increase the number of drivers to meet future service requirements,” it said.

“This prevents us from growing our business and our revenue, which ultimately damages our finances, restricting our ability to address employee aspirations for improved earnings, the subject of a separate claim.”

It said continuing “frustration” of training is unsustainable if it is to "progress" the drivers’ concerns.

Meanwhile, driver unions are demanding that their working week is reduced from 43 hours to 35.

The independent report recommended more detailed discussions after comparing their working conditions with their UK counterparts'.

It found that a 35 hour working week over four or five days is the norm in the UK, but Sunday work can be voluntary or obligatory.

The working week in Northern Ireland, it said, is 38.5 hours, but drivers have higher pay scales.

It said any new arrangement that might be agreed would have to take into account the totality of the drivers’ terms and conditions, as well as any extra costs or savings that would be made.

A reduction in Irish Rail drivers' working week to 35 hours would mean their pay would become fully pensionable.

Currently, just 39 hours of pay is counted towards their pension, but drivers work between 39 and 43.5 hours a week.

In a statement, the General Secretary of the NBRU, Dermot O’Leary, and SIPTU official Paul Cullen said the independent assessors’ report has thrown up some challenges for drivers.

"As recently as July 15th the Company committed to engaging on all issues contained in the Independent Report, which emanated from a Labour Court Recommendation following industrial action last autumn, Irish Rail has now decided to set its face against the preeminent Industrial Relations institution of the State by thumbing its nose at the recommended course of action to engage on all of the disputed issues, inclusive of Past productivity, reduction of the working week and improvements to terms and conditions"

Mr O'Leary and Mr Cullen went on to say:

"Both Unions today agreed at the WRC to also discuss the issue of Driver Training as part of the agenda set by the Labour Court Commissioned Report with the understanding, similar and consistent with industrial relations norms, that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed, we will as a matter of course return to the WRC  tomorrow morning in the hope that the Company will engage on the comprehensive agenda set out in the Report, failure to so do will result in an immediate ballot of our members for Industrial Action"

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