Rail passengers are facing potential travel disruption in the run-up to Christmas as train staff are set to ballot for work stoppages.
Members of the National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) say authorities must act to protect rail workers from “anti-social behaviour and downright thuggery which has now gone well beyond a tipping point”.
As The Irish Times reports, the union is to ballot its members in Irish Rail from next week for a mandate to engage in industrial action including work stoppages “in protest at the lack of protection afforded to members” in this regard across the rail network.
In a letter to senior politicians including Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan and acting Minister for Justice Heather Humphreys as well as to top-level figures in Irish Rail, the NBRU said frontline rail workers were “having to walk the gauntlet of abuse, threatened assault, physical violence and constant harassment”.
Rail staff maintain they are witnessing open drug taking, drug dealing, fighting and intimidatory behaviour virtually every day on train services across the country.
One rail worker said a day did not go by without gardaí having to be called to remove an individual from a train service.
Irish Rail said it had been “working extensively with our employees and trade unions, with An Garda Síochána, and our private security personnel to ensure we both proactively put in place measures to address anti-social behaviour, and respond to specific incidents, to ensure we have as safe a travelling and working environment as possible”.
The company said: “The measures in place and those planned are yielding and will continue to yield results, and we want to continue working with our employees and trade unions to address the scourge of anti-social behaviour.
Disrupting, through industrial action, the overwhelming majority of customers who are law-abiding and rely on our services daily will not achieve this.”
An appendix to the letter sent to the Taoiseach and other politicians sets out a series of personal, anonymised testimonies drawn up by train staff about their experiences in dealing with threatening and abusive passengers as well as other incidents.
NBRU general secretary Dermot O’Leary said the union had been calling for many years for the establishment of a dedicated Garda public transport division but this had not been listened to.