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Union chiefs threaten repeat of rail strike chaos

Published 23/10/2015

Irish Rail warned of knock-on delays as people prepare for the bank holiday getaway
Irish Rail warned of knock-on delays as people prepare for the bank holiday getaway

Trade union chiefs have threatened a repeat train drivers' strike in the increasingly bitter row over pay.

Both Siptu and the National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) warned commuters to expect a second three-hour stoppage on the morning of November 6 after negotiations broke down on Thursday night, sparking travel chaos.

Irish Rail said the strike cost one million euro while the knock-on from the first walkout was limited to services for a couple of hours allowing the vast majority of bank holiday travellers to getaway without any major disruption.

But with 40,000 users of the 6am-9am Intercity, Commuter and Dart services left to find alternative transport, unions warned that its members were prepared to strike again to secure pay for productivity deals.

Siptu organiser Paul Cullen called on Irish Rail to lift threats that this money would be cut from any deal offered to drivers in the future.

"The confrontational attitude adopted by management during these talks is part of a wider deterioration in its approach to industrial relations over recent months," he said.

"Unless there is a real change in its approach, in particular a willingness to address past productivity in line with the agreement it entered into with trade unions in September 2014, further industrial action is inevitable.

"A threat by management to offset what it claims was the cost the company incurred from today's industrial action from any proposal it intends to present aimed at concluding this dispute is not constructive to finding an overall settlement. This threat should be withdrawn."

The strike followed a long-running row over pay for productivity and cost-cutting measures as Irish Rail struggles under losses of 135 million euro - 1m euro a month.

The three-hour stoppage - due to be followed by a similar shut down on November 6 - is estimated to have cost Irish Rail another 1m euro.

Irish Rail claimed unions pressed ahead with the walkout despite a 7.9% pay rise offer being tabled for drivers between February 2016 and January 2018 while they also asked for a reduced working week which the company said would have cost 2.75m euro a year.

"The company is extremely disappointed that trade unions prevented their members from the opportunity of achieving this favourable benefit from the productivity measures sought," spokesman Barry Kenny said.

Dermot O'Leary, general secretary of the NBRU, said Irish Rail ignored the workers' real issues until the eleventh hour.

"(It was) all designed, we feel to provoke our members to the point where they now feel that they have no option but to engage in industrial action on Friday next," he said.

"On the back of two disputes within a year, preceded, it should be noted, by over 14 years of Industrial peace, it is long since past time when the taxpayer should be asking their elected representatives, who exactly is running Irish Rail."

Hailo, the taxi finder app, said its business in Dublin spiked by 25% during the strike.

But at the same time, the Small Firms Association condemned the rail strike claiming it cost business millions of euro.

Chairman AJ Noonan said: "This strike action was unnecessary and has severely disrupted commuters and other passengers deliberately on a busy bank holiday weekend. It will not only cause losses for Irish Rail, but for shops and businesses all over the country.

"It is another example of unions holding the country to ransom."

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