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Saturday 18 November 2017

Irish Rail unions suspend strike action that would have brought more misery

A deserted Connolly Station last week.
A deserted Connolly Station last week.

Thousands of rail passengers and football fans will breathe a sigh of relief today after unions at Irish Rail agreed last night to suspend their strike action after a Labour Court recommendation.

The breakthrough means a series of three 24-hour rolling strikes scheduled for November 14 and 23 and December 8 have been suspended, pending the outcome of a ballot by union members.

The strikes would have coincided Tuesday's World Cup play-off clash with Denmark at the Aviva Stadium, and would have brought all Dart, Commuter and Intercity trains to a halt, causing chaos for more than 50,000 fans travelling to the capital for the match.

Instead, Irish Rail will be putting on additional trains across all three services to cater for those attending the crunch game.

The development came shortly after 6pm last night when Irish Rail issued a statement welcoming the suspension of industrial action for the time being, following a hearing at the Labour Court.

Under the terms of the recommendation, workers will get a 2.5pc pay increase each year for three years, starting on December 1.

Bonus

They will also be entitled to a €500 bonus voucher payable next month, "recognising the efforts of staff over the last 10 years" as a "once-off goodwill gesture".

Dermot O'Leary, general secretary of the National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU), said the recommendation was accepted jointly by the five unions representing Irish Rail workers as "the best deal that can be achieved in these circumstances".

He fell short of saying that the unions would be pushing their members to accept the deal. However, Willie Quigley, regional officer for the Unite trade union, said the offer "is as good as it's going to get".

"It's a big improvement on what was at the WRC," he said of the recommendation of the Workplace Relations Commission. "We'll put it to our members that it's the best that's achievable."

The unions were seeking a 3.75pc wage hike a year over three years, while the company was offering a 1.75pc annual increase. The strike left around 155,000 rail passengers and commuters scrambling for alternative transport when the network ground to a halt on November 1 and November 7.

Meanwhile, Transport Minister Shane Ross said the development is "very welcome news".

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