herald

Wednesday 7 December 2016

Unions 'sceptical' despite fresh talks to avert chaos of rail strike tomorrow

Minister Paschal Donohoe has welcomed the talks
Minister Paschal Donohoe has welcomed the talks

Trade union leaders remain sceptical over the prospect of averting tomorrow's planned rail strike despite the decision to call fresh talks at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).

The talks, scheduled to resume this morning, are aimed at resolving the row between Irish Rail and unions over working hours and productivity.

The Government has asked the country's top troubleshooter Kieran Mulvey to intervene in a bid to prevent some 40,000 commuters from being discommoded.

Workers are scheduled to down tools from between 6am and 9am in a move that will disrupt the travel plans of passengers, school children and commuters.

A similar strike took placed a fortnight ago and caused chaos during rush hour.

But there is concern within political circles about the strained relations between Irish Rail Chief Executive David Franks and union officials.

"We have a situation here where personalities are causing huge problems," one source told the Herald.

Mr Franks, who earns a salary of €211,000, has been criticised after he sent a letter to workers this week warning that their demands are "unaffordable".

During yesterday's negotiations, both sides set out their positions in separate rooms.

Irish Rail said its proposals surrounding productivity will see an increase in earnings of up to 7.9pc.

There will also be an opportunity for drivers to avail of a voluntary severance package as part of its plans.

But unions want the working week of drivers reduced so as to bring it in line with their counterparts in other jurisdictions such as the UK.

Positive

Both the National Bus and Railworkers' Union (NBRU) and Siptu said last night that neither of their positions have changed and they are "no more optimistic" about striking a deal after over four hours of negotiations. Irish Rail said it will go into today's phase of the talks in a positive fashion.

Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe welcomed the talks.

"There has been significant engagement in recent weeks, through the WRC, to resolve this issue and to have threatened strike action at Irish Rail called off.

"I welcome the fact that exploratory talks will take place this afternoon to see whether or not a basis for renewed talks can be found. I encourage all involved to treat the matter with the seriousness it deserves."

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