Sunday 15 July 2018

'Ten years is too long for a pay rise'

Sorcha Crowley

Sligo train drivers take to the picket line today for the second of five planned work stoppages in a dispute over pay.

The first day of strike action took place nationwide last Wednesday and this newspaper spoke to workers on the picket line:

"We want more money. We feel strongly about it. We wouldn't be here otherwise," said one train driver called Peter.

"They haven't put their hearts into the negotiations either" he said.

"They could easily try harder. We didn't think about this lightly, sure we're losing money," he said.

Another train driver, Mick agreed. "We're just looking for more money. The work has become much more stressful for us. You're dealing with something different every day," he told The Sligo Champion.

"Ten years is a long time without a pay rise, especially when a company can afford to spend tens of thousands on a fishing trip so it's a bit of a snub really isn't it?" he said.

Depot worker Trevor said ten years was too long to wait without a pay rise.

"The cuts were severe. We agreed to the cuts and then it's nothing, for ten years," he added.

Services from Sligo to Dublin stopped at midnight last night.

Future days of work stoppages are next Tuesday 14th November, Thursday 23rd November and Friday 8th December

Today's stoppage is expected to impact around 150,000 customers and cost Irish Rail €900,000.

Talks broke down last month at the last minute, just as a deal was being hammered out between Irish Rail and the unions - SIPTU and the National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU).

However, with no intervention forthcoming, commuters will have to plan to be without services for today at least.

Irish Rail apologised to customers for the disruption and said that refunds would be available for people who had pre-booked.

The Sligo Iarnród Eireann workers say they are in it for the long haul and are prepared to carry out the upcoming work stoppages.

"But hopefully the company will come back with something," said Trevor.

"We don't want to be out either. It's four more dates before Christmas, up to the 8th of December," he said.

"They may announce more after Christmas," said Mick.

When asked if they were confident of a deal being done before Christmas, the men referred to the break down in talks before Halloween.

"We were told there was a deal done last Thursday week at something like 5 in the evening. Everyone was happy but the Irish Rail management team pulled the plug at 11 o'clock," said Mick.

There are over 30 workers involved in the strike action in Sligo.

The men said they felt sorry for people missing out on travel to Dublin for hospital appointments etc:"We feel sorry for them. We don't want to be out here. We just want to be driving trains," said Mick.

"We didn't prevent the buses from going, we could have," said another. "It mightn't go ahead next week. That's what you hope for," added Trevor.

Sligo Champion