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Wednesday 29 January 2020

Over 100,000 commuters expected to be hit in travel strike chaos

An Irish Rail spokeswoman said it was available for talks, but would not be swayed on pay cuts.
An Irish Rail spokeswoman said it was available for talks, but would not be swayed on pay cuts.

Ed Carty

Ireland's railways ground to a halt today after workers followed through with strike action to shut the network with 100,000 commuters expected to be affected tomorrow.

Following a long-running row over pay cuts to save Irish Rail another €17m on top of years of budget cuts, union members are holding a two day stoppage.

Despite pleas from Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe, business chiefs and sports fans, employees pressed ahead with the crippling action on one of the busiest sporting days of the year.

The National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) kicked off the strike with a two-day walkout today and tomorrow with plans to follow up with two 24-hour work stoppages on September 7 and September 21.

The last two days of action coincide with the Gaelic Athletic Association All-Ireland hurling and football finals in Dublin's 82,000 capacity Croke Park, traditionally the biggest dates on the annual sporting calender.

Today's strike hits fans from Mayo and Kerry coming up for the football semi-final.

Separately, Siptu, whose railway members are part of the largest trade union in Ireland, is to strike at Irish Rail tomorrow in a one day stoppage.

Organiser Paul Cullen said workers were left with no option.

"Our members do not believe that the cuts they are being asked to take will be the last they will be expected to endure," he said.

"The solution to this dispute rests with management pulling back from its threat to cut pay on the 24th August and turning their attention to seriously addressing the funding requirements of the company".

Siptu claim costs have been cut by €73m over the last four years.

Irish Rail is losing millions of euro every year after a recession-led plunge in revenues and subsidies were slashed, which had been keeping it on track.

Pay cuts as part of a multi-million euro cost-cutting survival strategy have been described as unavoidable by the Labour Court if the operator is to remain in business.

Earlier this month, David Franks, Irish Rail's chief executive, warned of potential bankruptcy if urgent action was not taken to cut costs.

Pay accounted for more than half of spending at Irish Rail, he said.

The company confirmed that senior management had taken a salary cut of 6.1pc.

They want workers to take cuts of between 1.7pc for those earning €56,000 or less - three-quarters of the workforce - up to just over 6pc for employees on €100,000 or more.

Three other unions accepted the proposals, but Siptu and the NBRU have rejected them.

The pay cuts to be introduced on Sunday are to apply for just over two years as part of a plan to save €17m, according to Irish Rail.

Last year, the company recorded losses of €16.4m.

Business chiefs in Dublin said the strike is costing €25-€30m a day.

Richard Guiney, DublinTown chief executive, called for interested parties to strike a deal.

"We in DublinTown urge all parties to this dispute to consider the passengers who rely on the rail service and to think laterally as to how the current difficulties can be best resolved," he said.

More than 10pc of the people who travel into Dublin city each day use the train.

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