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Friday 6 December 2019

Train passengers face threat of all-out strike in row over training

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Anne-Marie Walsh Industry Correspondent

TRAIN passengers face the threat of an all-out strike in a row that has already halted the roll out of a ten minute DART service.

Members of the National Bus and Railworkers Union are set to hold a ballot for industrial action.

The union has accused management of forcing them to train new drivers rather than continuing with a system in which they volunteer to do it.

It is only two months since rail passengers suffered disruption when staff at the commercial semi-state company halted services for two days in November in pursuit of a pay rise.

It is understood that there are around 32 drivers who are waiting to be trained.

Last month, the drivers rejected a 1pc pay rise recommended by the Labour Court in return for mentoring newer drivers.

Now the NBRU has claimed the company plans to forge ahead with its plan to impose compulsory mentoring after both sides failed to reach agreement at talks last week.

In a statement, it said it will hold the ballot in response to an "unprecedented attack" by the company by forcing changes to members' terms and conditions.

"The management at Iarnrod Éireann have set themselves on a course of major confrontation with its train drivers as a result of their decision to dispense with longstanding practice, by completely ignoring the jointly agreed procedures around how industrial relation matters are addressed," said General Secretary Dermot O'Leary.

"The fact is that the agreed training regime at the company is currently one of a voluntarist nature, and is solely at the discretion of the individual driver.

"The decision to break this agreement by forcing actual changes to terms and conditions onto workers is both unprecedented and contrary to how disputed matters should be addressed within our dispute procedures."

Mr O'Leary said the company previously agreed to talks to find a temporary solution.

Unions sought a reduction in the working week in return for concessions on training.

However, the NBRU said the company has ignored this.

Unions have also accused management of an anti-frontline worker approach after it issued a €500 voucher as part of a Labour Court recommendation that only worked in Dunnes Stores. They wanted an All for One voucher that could be spent in more outlets.

Unions have written to the Workplace Relations Commission asking it to intervene.

Irish Rail has said that the training debacle has stopped it from expanding its services, including a ten minute DART service and off-peak commuter services.

Passenger numbers climbed to 45 million last year, matching levels in 2007.

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