Strike threat as rail staff reject 'temporary' pay cuts
MORE than 1,700 Irish Rail staff are set to ballot on strike action if management imposes a 1.7pc pay cut.
The move comes after members of the largest union at the company rejected a Labour Court compromise to ease the temporary wage reduction.
A complete shutdown would affect over 10,000 passengers a day, mainly across DART and commuter routes to Dublin.
The threat of a rail strike comes as thousands of Aer Lingus passengers have been forced to change their travel plans as cabin crew prepare to mount pickets on the Friday before the June bank holiday weekend.
Irish Rail workers have voted against a Labour Court proposal to resolve the row over pay cuts by a tight margin of 51pc to 49pc. They will now begin balloting on industrial action, up to strikes, which will take place if management tries to implement changes to their terms and conditions without agreement.
The Labour Court compromise meant staff would take a pay cut for a shorter time than management wanted.
Most of the semi-state company's employees would suffer a pay cut worth 1.7pc under the cost-cutting plan. However, the wage cuts would range from 1.7pc to 6.1pc depending on salary.
Irish Rail told the Labour Court that failure to reach a deal on the pay cut was costing it €100,000 a week and putting it at risk of going bust. It said it was only able to pay wages by borrowing from banks and had suffered a catastrophic drop in income since 2008.
SIPTU organiser Paul Cullen asked the company to reflect on the workers' rejection of it. He said the union would be in contact with Irish Rail in the coming days to discuss his members' position.
SIPTU's rejection of the cuts comes after chief executive David Franks wrote to staff warning they were "now at the end of the road" in terms of talks on the temporary €10-a- week wage reduction.
He said accepting the pay cut was the only way to avoid job losses and industrial action.
In the letter, he said he took the unusual step of writing to their home addresses "because the future of Iarnrod Eireann, as we currently know it, is now very much in your hands".
He said for 74pc of them, the pay cuts would be limited to about €10 a week after tax.
Transport Minister Leo Varadkar and Minister of State for Public and Commuter Transport Alan Kelly have expressed disappointment with the outcome of the ballot, although by a very narrow margin, of SIPTU members at Iarnrod Eireann.
While awaiting the outcome of the remaining ballots of the NBRU due next week, and the TEEU and UNITE ballots to be completed later this week, the ministers said they recognise the significant number of Irish Rail employees who have already voted to accept the cost-saving measures. This includes a strong positive vote (72pc to 28pc) to accept the cost savings measures by the TSSA.
Irish Rail welcomed the TSSA vote but regretted that SIPTU did not back the proposals. It said the savings targeted under the proposals are – along with other non-payroll measures – essential for the financial solvency of Iarnrod Eireann.