Saturday 24 February 2018

Traffic chaos looms as Dart drivers to vote on strike action

Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe has called on road users to remain vigilant in 2016. Photo: Frank McGrath
Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe has called on road users to remain vigilant in 2016. Photo: Frank McGrath

Anne-Marie Walsh, Jane O'Faherty and Katherine Donnelly

Up to 60,000 Dart commuters may face traffic chaos later this month as a row at the transport company deepened last night.

Irish Rail accused unions of "misleading the public" as they announced members are balloting for industrial action over the introduction of a new 10-minute service.

News that the drivers may down tools comes as Luas drivers prepare to mount two 48-hour strikes next month.

The National Bus and Rail Drivers Union said strike action on the Dart will begin on January 31 if the company forges ahead with a plan to run Dart trains every 10 minutes.

It claims the change is being brought in without agreement with staff, and there are not enough drivers trained to implement the roster. "The earliest they would have extra drivers trained is June," said general secretary Dermot O'Leary.

Siptu drivers will also ballot next week.

Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe warned the 48-hour Luas strike will damage the economy in the capital.

"I want to reiterate the disruption and damage that this will cause to commuters in Dublin, and the economy in Dublin," he said at the launch of a fleet of 116 new buses at Bus Éireann.

"This period should be used by everybody who is involved in this dispute to sit down, have reasonable negotiations and make sure these strikes do not happen.

"If they do happen, tens of thousands of people are going to be affected each day, for four days, and it will do terrible damage to our economy in Dublin, just as our economy in Dublin is now beginning to recover."

Elsewhere, teacher strikes could close second-level schools and third-level colleges for a day each in coming weeks.

Teachers in almost half the country's second-level schools are threatening a one-day stoppage before the General Election. If it goes ahead, it would close about 350 community colleges and comprehensive and community schools, as well as colleges of further education.

No date has been set, but the Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI) said it would happen within weeks unless there were meaningful talks on a range of issues, including lower salary scales introduced for new teachers in 2012 and the problem of casualisation in the profession.

TUI president Gerry Quinn said 30pc of second-level teachers were employed on a temporary and/or part-time basis and this proportion grows to 50pc for those under 35.

A Department of Education spokesperson said the last two budgets had seen an increase in the spend on education and the department was also implementing reforms to tackle casualisation.

Earlier this week, lecturers in institutes of technology who are TUI members announced plans for a one-day strike on February 3.

Key concerns include funding for institutes of technology, a 32pc rise in student numbers when lecturer numbers have fallen by 10pc and the precarious employment status of many lecturers.

Irish Independent

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