herald

Tuesday 18 December 2018

Rail strike is off after late-night deal struck

THE rail strike has been called off, saving hundreds of thousands of train users more transport misery this weekend.

Iarnrod Eireann management, together with the trade unions SIPTU and the NBRU, have reached an agreement.

The deal paved the way for a

suspension of the industrial action planned for September 7, 8 and 21.

The agreed document was described by the unions as "comprehensive", while management said it would protect the future viability of the company.

Stoppages had been planned for Sunday - the day of the All-Ireland hurling final between Kilkenny and Tipperary - and Monday.

It followed a strike on August 24 and 25 that affected 160,000 people.

A fifth day of action was to go ahead on September 21, the day of the All-Ireland football final between Kerry and Donegal.

But intensive negotiations at the Labour Relations Commission (LRC) since Saturday led to a breakthrough in the early hours of this morning.

talks

Workers had been protesting at the unilateral imposition of pay cuts from August 24.

The company argued the reductions were in line with Labour Court recommendations and came following 20 months of talks between both sides.

A ballot among Iarnrod Eireann workers on the LRC proposals will now take place.

NBRU general secretary Dermot O'Leary said a "comprehensive document" was agreed this morning.

"We feel that it covers all the areas of concern that we came into the commission with last Saturday," Mr O'Leary told RTE Radio 1's Morning Ireland.

"The issues that we raised and that have been well aired already have been covered comprehensively by the commission in this document.

"We have a document … that we need our members to see.

"It covers every base in terms of the sustainability of the company. It covers every base in terms of trust and confidence."

Iarnrod Eireann spokesman Barry Kenny said they are delighted for their customers that the strikes have been called off.

He said the agreement "will help us to protect the financial viability of Iarnrod Eireann and protect the interest of customers and staff alike".

"We feel the proposal that is emerging will enable all of the different goals to be met," Mr Kenny added.

As part of the deal, the pay reductions have been "paused" for three weeks to allow for a ballot of the SIPTU and NBRU workers, he said.

If workers agree to the deal, the pay cuts will be re-introduced but will last for 25 months rather than 28 months, as originally planned.

Owen Reidy of SIPTU said: "We have a pay pause to allow proper consideration of this… We've got significant movement on the issue of (State) subvention where the unions are going to have a strong and real and meaningful voice on that in a comprehensive process.

"And we've done some work on trust and confidence because we've always said we cannot keep going back to the well where the workers are seen to subsidise the railways," Mr Reidy said.

Predicament

Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe said: "The fact that agreement has been reached by unions and management, which will allow the planned strike action to be averted, is most welcome.

"All parties to the dispute are aware of the financial predicament of the company and this agreement is an essential element in addressing the challenges the company face."

Iarnrod Eireann had introduced pay cuts of between 1.7pc and 6.1pc, without the agreement of workers.

comurphy@herald.ie

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