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Sunday 17 December 2017

'Frustrated' commuters fear rail strike chaos

Siptu’s Greg Ennis said rail workers ‘can give no more’
Siptu’s Greg Ennis said rail workers ‘can give no more’

Anxious commuters should be spared the threat of a train strike next month, Rail Users Ireland said last night.

"We've all been left with this big uncertainty around our daily travel in the coming weeks," said Mark Gleeson, spokesman for the commuters' representative group.

Travel chaos looms for 140,000 rail passengers following the breakdown of pay negotiations between unions and management on Wednesday night.

Unions warned that rail services could be hit by strikes as early as the October bank holiday weekend.

"Rail users are extremely frustrated. We have been subsidising Irish Rail with fare hikes of five to 10pc a year," said Mr Gleeson.

"This threat of strikes is causing a high degree of frustration.

"The angry and militant attitude of the unions is not helping.

"There's a lot of trepidation among commuters now.

"We would encourage all sides to immediately resume talks."

He said Irish Rail should do more to seek increased state funding for improvements in services.

Unions are seeking a "no strings attached" 3.75pc pay increase.

The company has offered a 1.5pc rise in return for improved productivity, including redeploying staff and outsourcing.

The unions have demanded that the Government restores funding levels to Irish Rail, which were greatly reduced in the economic crash.

Siptu union division organiser Greg Ennis said Irish Rail has been underfunded by the Government for years and workers "can give no more" to the company.

Anger

Dermot O'Leary, the general secretary of the National Bus and Railworkers' Union, said a strike could take place by the October bank holiday.

"The anger is palpable among union members," he said.

"Balloting for strike action will be under way by next week and will be completed within three weeks."

Following the breakdown of pay talks, industrial relations would be more difficult, Mr O'Leary added.

A spokesman for Iarnrod Eireann said it had participated positively in the pay talks and proposed giving employees 4.5pc over three years.

The company's financial position "remains extremely challenging, with insolvency looming if further losses occur", he said.

He added that at least two weeks remained for talks within the requested timescale, so it was "inexplicable" that the unions would "rush to ballot and to disrupt services".

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