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Rail chief back home as strikes to cripple capital


David Franks. Photo: Damien Eagers

David Franks. Photo: Damien Eagers

David Franks. Photo: Damien Eagers

Embattled Irish Rail chief executive David Franks is to cut short his holiday in Mauritius after coming under strong criticism from union leaders and opposition TDs.

The company last night said Mr Franks will return to work a day earlier than planned to prepare for the first all-out rail strike in 13 years.

The National Bus and Railworkers Union (NBRU) expressed shock this week after it was revealed that Mr Franks, who earns €211,000 per year, went on holiday to the Indian Ocean island just days before the rail network is brought to a halt.

Despite insisting on Wednesday that the company boss was managing the situation from Mauritius, an Irish Rail spokesperson last night confirmed that the holiday is being cut short.

"With NBRU and SIPTU intent on progressing with this industrial action - despite the effect on our customers, on the company's finances, and on the security of employment of the workforce - Mr Franks has brought his travel arrangements home to Ireland forward and will travel on Saturday to continue to lead the management of the situation," the spokesperson said.

The decision by Mr Franks to return home this weekend was welcomed last night by Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe.

But Mr Donohoe, who is himself holidaying in Kerry this week, further antagonised union leaders after he accused workers of taking action that "puts jobs at risk" at Irish Rail.

Meanwhile, both unions at the centre of the dispute are refusing to budge on the industrial action, scheduled to begin on Sunday.

"The action being taken by SIPTU and NBRU members will result in massive disruption on a number of fronts; it will cause considerable inconvenience to rail users, it puts jobs at risk at Irish Rail and it will add to the further deterioration of the company's financial situation," the minister said.

"There can be no winners if this strike action goes ahead. It will contribute nothing to the company's prospects or to furthering its role in serving the public. I am appealing to the unions involved to call off the actions."

Speaking to the Herald, NBRU general secretary Dermot O'Leary accused the minister of continuously 
criticising workers at the semi-state company.

"The minister would be better minded to concentrate on the issues at play here - the fact that pay cuts are coming in on Sunday - instead of focusing on the workers," he said.

SIPTU organiser Owen Reidy said the company needs to find other ways of saving money rather than slashing pay.

"The only way the dispute will be called off is if Irish Rail confirm they won't cut pay on Sunday. There has been nothing from the company to suggest they will consider doing that," he said.

Without a last-minute intervention, the first all-out rail strike since 2001 will begin this weekend, causing major disruption for up to 15,000 GAA fans planning to attend the All-Ireland senior football semi-final between Mayo and Kerry in Croke Park.

The 48-hour stoppage on Sunday and Monday will be followed by a stoppage on September 7, the day of the All-Ireland hurling final, and Monday, September 8.

There will also be a stoppage on September 21 when the 
Gaelic football decider takes place.

Cuts of between 1.7pc and 6.1pc have been accepted by some unions but rejected by the NBRU and SIPTU.