Thursday 14 December 2017

Irish Rail has little hope of averting strike


Paschal Donohoe
Paschal Donohoe

Irish Rail has admitted it is "pessimistic" about the prospect of averting Friday's planned strike action by train drivers after relations between the company and trade unions reached their most strained in years.

It now appears inevitable that some 40,000 commuters will be discommoded for the second time in a fortnight as Irish Rail workers prepare to down tools between 6am and 9am.

But the prospect of further strike action beyond Friday has heightened following a bizarre row over a letter sent to workers by Irish Rail chief David Franks.

Mr Franks, who earns an annual salary of €211,000, described the demands being tabled on behalf of workers as "unaffordable". And he accused the National Bus and Railway Union (NBRU) and Siptu of creating "false expectations" following the decision to seek a reduced working week and changes to productivity.

Last night, both unions claimed that a significant number of their members have handed back the letters, while many others refused to read the contents.

But Irish Rail spokesman Barry Kenny claimed that the "vast majority" of workers accepted Mr Franks's letter.

"But as is always the case with such communication, there is a small number who do not, particularly when we are in an industrial dispute situation. But there was certainly nothing remarkable or surprising," he added.

He said the company is pessimistic about the prospects of averting the work stoppage.

Irish Rail says its proposals would 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. But unions have rejected the proposals.

Last night, a spokeswoman for Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe (inset) said that the deal proposed by Irish Rail is "reasonable", adding that the minister hopes the strike will be averted. "The company is still losing in excess of €1m a month and the industrial relations machinery of the State is best placed to resolve these issues."

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