Rail workers on the picket line 'had to make a stand' in pay row
Frustrated staff take part in scheduled strike days in the hope of getting restoration after a ten-year pay freeze, writes Deborah Coleman
As Iarnród Éireann staff staged the first of a number of planned strikes last Wednesday (November 1), staff at Arklow Train Station were out on the picket line making their case for fair pay after a decade-long pay freeze.
Unions representing the staff are seeking a wage increase of 3.75 per cent over three years without any conditions.
'We are the only group of the three, including Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann, who have not had our pay reinstated after 28 months, as agreed,' said Joe Long.
'Nobody wants to be here on strike. We all want to be working and doing our jobs and getting people where they need to go, but we had to do something,' he added.
Colleague Barry Evans was keen to highlight that it is not just the drivers, but maintenance staff like him who have also been without any increments, despite heavier workloads for the same flat rate, as more than 1,000 staff were shed from the company.
'We went out in Hurricane Ophelia for 20-plus hours. During a storm one Christmas, we walked the track to check it wasn't washed away and when there is a tree fallen on the track, we have to get off, chop it up and make sure the train keeps moving,' said Mr Evans.
'If you are named engine supervisor you get an hour extra pay and are responsible for the life of every man on the team. If something happens to any of them you are the one facing a possible custodial sentence. People don't see that and they don't know about all the other work that goes on behind the scenes,' Mr Evans said.
He agreed that the strike action was 'the last straw' and that none of the staff want to be on the picket line - without pay or discommoding passengers.
'Nobody wanted to come out, but we had to make a stand,' agreed Vincent Geraghty who is based in Dublin but resides in Arklow.
'A deal was almost across the line but the plug was pulled on it at the last minute. We have already given as much as possible. We cannot keep giving and giving,' he said.
'We don't even know why we are here negotiating again when we agreed a deal nine years ago,' added Mr Evans. 'Once again we are the Cinderella of the transport service.'
The staff say that if a deal is not met they will be striking on scheduled days for the foreseeable future but have given their union a mandate to call and 'all-out' strike for up to a week if a deal is not brokered.
In the meantime, Arklow commuters and rail users will have to make alternative travel arrangements, and must note that Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann will not accept tickets.