Latest: Tens of thousands of commuters to be affected by five days of rail stoppages

Update 4.15pm: Irish Rail union members have announced a series of rolling 24-hour stoppages.

155,000 train journeys will be affected every day during the strikes.

"Following a meeting this afternoon, the Trade Union Group representing all workers at Irish Rail, in pursuance of a long overdue flat pay award, have decided to serve notice on the Company for the following series of industrial actions," the NBRU said.

The 24-hour work stoppages will see a full withdrawal of labour and the placing of pickets on the following five dates:

Wednesday, November 1.

Tuesday, November 7.

Tuesday, November 14.

Thursday, November 23.

Friday, December 8.

The strike on the 14th coincides with the Republic of Ireland’s football match against Denmark while the stoppage on the 8th clashes with a busy day for Christmas shoppers.

The Trade Union Group said it will review the actionan ongoing basis and could "decide to escalate the action by way of increased frequency and duration".

"The responsibility for this dispute lies squarely with the CEO and his management team at Irish Rail," it added.

"The treatment meted out to staff over the last number of months, and in particular the debacle which occurred at the WRC last evening, has been nothing short of contemptuous and will make a resolution to this dispute even more difficult, if not now impossible."

NBRU described the action, which will affect tens of thousands of commuters, as "an unfortunate consequence" of the dispute with Irish Rail.

SIPTU TEAC Division Organiser Greg Ennis said: "“While the impending industrial action is regrettable and will no doubt affect the travelling public our members believe they are left with no option but to pursue such a course on foot of the procrastination by management over what is a reasonable pay claim and which is in line with similar pay awards within the CIE group and wider transport sector.”

Iarnród Éireann management has said it regrets the decision of union workers to hold the stoppages.

Talks between Iarnród Éireann and trade unions at the Workplace Relations Commission concluded yesterday evening without agreement.

Iarnród Éireann said the employees will lose pay for the days of industrial action and customers will face disruption and uncertainty.

The effect of this industrial action will be clear:

"Our precarious finances will be weakened further, in a situation where accumulated losses are €160m, and the company is dangerously close to insolvency and our ability to address the pay claim will be reduced," it added.

The company said it is committed to resolving the dispute through dialogue and the state's "industrial relations machinery".

Iarnród Éireann said it moved its position to offer a 1.75% increase for one year, to be facilitated by measures including performance management, absenteeism management, revisions to redeployment policy and payroll.

It committed to discussing more substantive productivity issues to fund further improvements in earnings beyond the one year agreement in a defined period.

Update 1.36pm: Members of the National Bus & Rail Union (NBRU) members have voted by a margin of 93% in favour of industrial action at Irish Rail.

It follows a similar ballot by SIPTU members earlier today after pay talks broke down at the Labour Court last night.

"Our members have had enough of the type of behaviour witnessed last evening at the WRC when senior management at Irish Rail pulled a potential proposal which we felt could have been presented to our members for their consideration," said NBRU general secretary Dermot O’Leary.

"It would appear that this company are hell-bent on forcing its own staff onto the picket lines and creating an environment which will bring nothing but misery to thousands of rail commuters.

"We will meet with trade union colleagues this afternoon in order to agree a coordinated strategy of industrial action over the coming weeks and the run-in to Christmas.

"It is long since passed time that political leadership was provided by the Minister for Transport with regard to the publicly-owned public transport companies.”

Update 1.05pm: SIPTU members in Irish Rail have voted overwhelmingly in favour of industrial action today.

SIPTU members voted by 84% in favour of industrial action in a ballot that was counted today in Liberty Hall.

SIPTU TEAC division organiser, Greg Ennis, said: “SIPTU representatives will meet with officials of the four other trade unions in the Irish Rail Group of Unions this afternoon at 2.30pm to agree a campaign of targeted industrial action.

“It was always only as a last resort that our 1,900 members in Irish Rail said that they would initiate industrial action.

“However, due to the intransigent and combative attitude displayed by management over recent weeks, they have no alternative. This was particularly evident before the break down of talks in the Workplace Relations Commission, last night.”

Update 11.51am: The National Bus and Rail Union says it expects a train strike before Christmas - but it is unlikely to last for days on end.

Talks between unions and management at Irish Rail broke down last night, with unions rejecting an offer of a 1.75% pay increase for one year.

National Bus and Rail Union general secretary Dermot O’Leary said that members will have their customers in mind.

“We’re not ruling out an all-out strike, but the soundings I’ve been getting is that people have a preference for rolling strikes, not least because they understand that people are going to be discommoded and they don’t want to entertain the notion of closing down the railway for days on end,” he said.

“They know they have to engage in strike action for maybe a day or two, over a number of weeks leading to Christmas, and they’re prepared to do that.”

The result of a trade union ballot will be known this afternoon, with strikes possible as soon as next weekend.

Irish Rail’s Barry Kenny said that the unions rejected a reasonable offer.

“We offered 1.75%, with some administrative changes around performance management, around absenteeism management, other areas like that, for one year, and we would then look in more detail at further measures for year two and three,” he said.

“So that was on the table, effectively a 1.75% increase which would not impact the day-to-day work of the vast majority of employees, but unfortunately the trade unions didn’t feel in a position to accept that.”

Update 10.12am: Irish Rail is today calling on unions to return to the Labour Court instead of ballot for industrial action.

Unions have blamed Irish Rail CEO David Franks for the breakdown in pay talks last night.

Irish Rail spokesman Barry Kenny said that a strike could still be avoided.

"Industrial action is avoidable," he said.

"We, unfortunately, weren't able to reach agreement at the Workplace Relations Commission, but we were there after being referred to the Labour Court, and the Labour Court said 'if you can't agree on matters there, bring it back to the Labour Court for adjudication'.

"So that is the route that should happen now. unfortunately, the trade unions are proceeding with a ballot and threatening industrial action."

Update 9.37am: The public should know whether or not there will be a train strike before Christmas by this afternoon.

The NBRU trade union is meeting later to discuss their next step after turning down a possible pay hike, based on certain productivity conditions, at the WRC overnight.

NBRU General Secretary Dermot O'Leary says they will meet at 2.30pm this afternoon before announcing the next course of action.

"We assumed that we were working towards a situation last night, late into the night, that those strings attached would not be part of any proposal, and in fact we were inching towards a situation that a proposal around pay could be presented to our membership

"But unfortunately, at the last minute, we contend in the trade union side of the debate that that proposal was pulled at the last minute.

"And as I said, we are accusing people who were not in the building last night at the WRC of being responsible for pulling that offer."

Earlier:

There could be industrial action at Irish Rail after last night's collapse of talks at the WRC.

Management say they offered a 1.75% pay rise, "to be facilitated by measures including performance management, absenteeism management, revisions to redeployment policy and payroll".

The offer was rejected by the unions, who are demanding a no-strings-attached increase.

Unions had previously threatened industrial action.

"Despite the best efforts of the WRC, Irish Rail senior management have once again demonstrated their total disdain for their own staff and those that rely on Irish Rail services," an Iarnrod Éireann Trade Union Group statement read.

"We have spent the last 12 hours engaging in what we understood to be last-ditch efforts to produce a proposal on pay which could be presented to our members, and in so doing stave off what we consider to be unnecessary industrial action.

"Such action will discommode tens of thousands of commuters over the coming weeks, in the run-up to Christmas and beyond.

"We had forewarned the company in advance of today’s discussions that those that appeared at the WRC on behalf of Irish Rail should be able to come to the table with a clear mandate to negotiate.

"Regrettably, once again we have experienced the situation where those outside of the negotiating process has undermined and sabotaged any prospects of concluding settlement proposals and we would call into question the CEO’s role in this debacle.

"Consequently, trade unions will now proceed to conclude and count their respective ballots ,with announcements tomorrow afternoon on the details relating to the anticipated roll-out on the industrial action/strike action across the rail network in the coming weeks."

Management at Iarnród Éireann expressed their disappointment at the outcome, calling on unions to engage in further talks.

"As these talks follows a referral by the Labour Court, it should be remembered that this referral stated that should the parties not reach agreement, any outstanding issues should be referred back to the Labour Court," a statement read.

"Therefore, Iarnród Éireann urges its trade unions to complete this process and refer the outstanding issues to the Labour Court, rather than balloting for or threatening industrial action.

"Any threatened industrial action will only further worsen our financial position, weakening our ability to improve employees’ earnings, and most importantly will cause uncertainty and disruption to our customers’ travel plans."


 

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