Call for talks amid second rail strike warning

(left to right) James Byrne, Liam Dunphy and Vincent Kirby outside Heuston rail station in Dublin. Picture: PA

Irish Rail bosses are facing threats of a second 48-hour strike unless they open a new round of talks with trade unions over pay cuts.

Siptu, which represents 2,100 employees who are on strike with colleagues in the National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU), called on management to engage with them on the future of the business.

The industrial action, which began yesterday with the first walk-out by NBRU members, forced about 100,000 commuters to take to buses and cars crippling transport networks at rush hour.

Siptu organiser Paul Cullen said union members did not expect the imposed pay cuts to be a one-off and called for a new round of talks.

“It is regrettable that the 2,100 Siptu members in Irish Rail have had to take this action but they were left with no alternative following a management decision to impose a unilateral cut to their wages,” he said.

“Our members do not believe that the cuts they are being asked to take will be the last they will be expected to endure.

“Due to the cuts in funding to the rail service the company is operating with a deficit of approximately €60m.

“There is no indication that the National Transport Authority or Department of Transport have any plans on how to offset this deficit other than expecting Irish Rail staff to endure further cuts.”

Siptu called for Irish Rail management to open a new round of talks with staff over the future of the business or see a repeat of industrial action.

“The solution to this dispute rests with management reversing its decision to cut our members’ wages and entering into serious talks with workers’ representatives on the future of Irish Rail,” Mr Cullen said.

Siptu is planning to follow up today’s action with walk-outs over 48 hours from Sunday September 7 and a 24-hour work stoppage on Sunday September 21.

The NBRU is planning two 24-hour strikes on September 7 and September 21 but its leaders have warned they are planning to review strategy following that and an all-out strike is an option.

The strikes are the culmination of a long-running row over pay cuts to save Irish Rail another €17m on top of years of budget cuts.

No talks are planned to attempt to break the deadlock after management implemented the divisive reductions in salaries yesterday.

AA Roadwatch noted a marked increase in traffic on commuter routes with the Naas Road, N4 from Lucan and Swords Road into Dublin city experiencing greater than normal volumes.

All Intercity, DART and commuter services were cancelled.

Yesterday, one of the busiest sporting days of the year with Kerry playing Mayo in the All-Ireland football semi-final, about 60,000 people were left with no access to trains.

Pickets have been placed at a number of train stations around the country.

Irish Rail has said it will run out of money in 2015 if it does not cut wages this year. The strike will cost the company €1.3m.

Siptu claim costs have been cut by €73m over the last four years.

Pay cuts as part of a multi-million euro cost-cutting survival strategy have been described as unavoidable by the Labour Court if the operator is to remain in business.

The company confirmed that senior management had taken a salary cut of 6.1%.

They want workers to take cuts of between 1.7% for those earning €56,000 or less – three-quarters of the workforce – up to just over 6% for employees on €100,000 or more.

Three other unions accepted the proposals but Siptu and the NBRU have rejected them.

The pay cuts introduced yesterday apply for just over two years as part of a plan to save €17m, according to Irish Rail.

Last year, the company recorded losses of €16.4m.

Business chiefs in Dublin said the strike is costing shops in the capital €25m-€30m.

More than 10% of the people who travel into Dublin city each day use the train.

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