Thursday 18 October 2018

Rail strike 'will probably be no different than if there'd be no strike at all' - Varadkar

Empty Platforms at Heuston Station during the Irish Rail workers' strike
Empty Platforms at Heuston Station during the Irish Rail workers' strike

Kevin Doyle in Seattle

Striking rail workers will not be offered extra pay for shutting discommoding tens of thousands of commuters, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said.

As union bosses threatened to ramp up industrial action at Irish Rail, Mr Varadkar said the strike will end with a deal that "will probably be no different than if there'd be no strike at all".

"I think it's unfortunate that in the transport sector it seems it's impossible to come to an agreement without a few days of strike."

The Taoiseach's comments, made while on a trade mission on US West Coast, are likely to be met with fury from the unions who have described the 1.7pc pay rise on the table as "miserly".

General Secretary of the National Bus and Railworkers Union, Dermot O'Leary, has already warned that the strikes could continue into the New Year.

But Mr Varadkar told reporters: "There's one thing I am certain of and that is that this strike, as all transport strikes are, will be resolved. It'll be resolved after an engagement with the WRC and possible the Labour Court.

"And the deal that comes out at the end of that process will probably be no different than if there'd been no strike at all."During the Fine Gael leadership contest Mr Varadkar said he favoured changes to industrial dispute law that would restrict strike action by vital service operators

Asked if he stool by that position now that he is Taoiseach, Mr Varadkar replied: "I never proposed to ban strikes. What I have proposed is a mechanism by which we can resolve long-standing disputes.

"This is something that is done in other countries, is to make Labour Court fundings binding. So if a strike is protracted, goes on for a long period of time and the public are being inconvenienced then it can be referred to the Labour Court for a ruling everybody would have to abide by."

He said such legislative moves are not in the Programme for Government but could become Fine Gael policy ahead of the next election.

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