Rail strike 'just trivial matter to Ross' as commuters suffer
Transport Minister Shane Ross has been accused of treating as "trivial" the Irish Rail strike that left 155,000 rail passengers stranded yesterday.
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said Mr Ross had promised a national transport forum during a bus strike in the summer, but nothing had been done.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar insisted the rail strike will be resolved by the state industrial relations machinery, and that pay disputes in the CIE group always appeared "to require a few days of strike" before they could be fixed.
However, Mr Martin said Mr Ross had neglected the transport system and had an antipathy towards the CIE group of rail and bus companies.
He added that an extra €103m was needed by Irish Rail to keep the standards of lines and carriages up to date.
He said the workers had not had a pay rise in 10 years and did not want to be on strike.
Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams also accused the minister of having shown no interest in the issue.
"Perhaps he's minister for North Korea in his own head," he said. "I suppose a rail strike like this is a very trivial matter for him."
The Taoiseach said he appreciated that people were very badly affected, as were rail staff and businesses operating in and around railway stations. However, he insisted that this strike "would be resolved like all other disputes".
"It will be resolved in the normal way, involving the auspices of the state industrial relations apparatus, including the Labour Relations Commission and, if necessary, the Labour Court," said Mr Varadkar.
It comes as a union official hinted that the pay dispute could spill over to Dublin Bus and Bus Eireann.
A further three days of strikes are already planned - the next one next Tuesday - with no indication of the two sides coming together for talks to avert them.
Siptu has said there is a "very real possibility" that more strike days could be added next month and these would likely be of a "greater duration" than yesterday's 24-hour strike.
The union will make a decision at a meeting reviewing its industrial relations campaign early next month.
However, Siptu division organiser Greg Ennis also raised the possibility that bus drivers may take some action in support of their rail colleagues.
Speaking to the Herald from the picket line at Drogheda train station yesterday, he said: "A lot of bus drivers between Dublin Bus and Bus Eireann are concerned at the intransigence of the minister and the Department of Transport and how they are dealing with their brothers and sisters in this dispute.
"As of now, this is purely a dispute between Irish Rail workers and their employer, but there is growing concern."
Earlier this year, during the lengthy strike by Bus Eireann drivers, some train drivers who worked out of combined bus and rail depots refused to cross the picket lines.
However, Dermot O'Leary, general secretary of the National Bus and Rail Union, insisted that bus drivers in his union would not be taking part in any industrial action in support of their train driver colleagues.
When asked about the possibility, he said:"Let me be very, very strong in stating categorically, in no circumstances will I be supporting anyone who decides to do that."