Tuesday 24 October 2017

Irish Rail workers to 'play key role' in addressing company's finances

Paul Melia

Paul Melia

Pay cuts for Irish Rail staff will be suspended until workers decide whether to accept a plan giving trade unions a role in shaping the company's future.

The deal struck at the Labour Relations Commission (LRC) means that workers will play a key role in addressing finances in the transport company, with formal meetings to be held every three months with the National Transport Authority (NTA) and Department of Transport.

It will also allow pay cuts ranging from 1.7pc to 6pc to be reduced if additional savings are identified and delivered.

Trade unions said the deal addressed all of their concerns which led to two days of strike action earlier this month, and was the "best deal possible".

Three further days of industrial action have now been called off, and the pay cuts will be suspended until workers vote on the proposals over the next four weeks.

"Both unions pushed very hard for the forum of quarterly meetings with the Department of Transport and NTA," SIPTU divisional organiser Owen Reidy said.

"We have to move away from a crisis situation and talk about things of mutual concern in advance of crisis and disputes. I believe this forum may create a whole new dynamic.

"Our view is this (pay cuts) are the last ask and won't happen again. We won't be formally recommending yes, but we agree it's the best deal possible but each member will have to make their own minds up."

The dispute centred on proposed pay cuts to shore up the finances of the semi-state railway company which has seen government funding to run services cut to €118m this year, a drop of more than €60m since 2008.

Up to 160,000 people faced the loss of essential train services next Sunday and Monday and on September 21 if the industrial unrest continued.

The main points of the deal are:

l Trade unions, management, the Department of Transport and NTA will meet every three months to discuss issues within the company.

l Separately, unions, the NTA and management will hold regular meetings to discuss the level of Government subsidy required to maintain services.

l The pay cuts will last for 25 months, after which unions may seek their restoration. There will be no further cuts in the intervening period.

l If additional savings are delivered, the level of pay cuts may be reduced.

The LRC warned there was no further room for negotiations if the deal collapsed, saying the proposal was the "final attempt" to secure agreement between the parties.

Iarnrod Eireann welcomed the deal, with spokesman Barry Kenny saying it was a "strong commitment" by all parties to secure the company's future.

The National Bus and Rail Union said there was no a need to have a debate on the future of the rail network and to grow passenger numbers.

"We have been strong in saying where if you want a proper service, it has to be financed," General Secretary Dermot O'Leary said. "You cannot rely on fare increases because they do nothing to encourage people onto trains. There is a big debate to be had."

Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe said the pay cuts were an "extremely important contribution" to tackling the company's financial difficulties.

Irish Independent

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