Travel chaos is imminent as the first of five 24-hour nationwide rail strikes looks set to go-ahead tomorrow, writes Eoin English.
National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) general secretary Dermot O’Leary said last night he was pessimistic that “any viable alternative” would emerge today to avert the nationwide industrial action which is being staged as part of a pay row.
Up to 155,000 rail passengers are expected to be affected when all Dart, Intercity, and commuter rail services grind to a halt.
No trains will operate tomorrow Wed 1st November on Intercity, DART or Commuter due to industrial action. Full info: https://t.co/RqguZY1cxG
— Iarnród Éireann (@IrishRail) October 31, 2017
Mr O’Leary also suggested that it will take a significant intervention to avert the other four planned national rail strike days that are scheduled to take place across November and December, when workers will withdraw their labour and place pickets at train stations and depots.
Following tomorrow’s industrial action, Irish Rail unions are planning to bring rail services to halt again on Tuesday, November 7, Tuesday, November 14, Thursday, November 23, and Friday, December 8.
The stoppage on November 14 coincides with the Republic of Ireland v Denmark World Cup qualifying play-off in Dublin.
The unions have refused to rule out more strike action above and beyond the five days of strikes already announced.
The NBRU is expected to call today for policymakers in the Department of Transport and the National Transport Authority to engage in negotiations that could “assist and enable” the company to return to talks.
Irish Rail workers want a 3.75% a year pay rise over three years to match recent wage increases secured by Luas and Dublin Bus workers.
However, the company’s group of unions, including Siptu, the NBRU, TSSA, and Unite, voted overwhelmingly for strike action earlier this month after talks at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) between company bosses and unions broke down.
The discussions arose from a Labour Court recommendation which stated that if there were outstanding issues at the end of the WRC process, they should be referred back to the Labour Court for a final recommendation.
Mr O’Leary said the talks were very close to a “substantive proposal” which could have averted the strike action. It is understood an offer of a 2.5% pay increase was being discussed.
However, Irish Rail said it had only offered a 1.75% increase for one year — an offer which was linked to performance and absenteeism management, and revisions to redeployment policy.
Meanwhile, Irish Rail has advised customers that it does not expect its Intercity, Dart or commuter rail services to operate tomorrow, and it has outlined a refunds policy for the estimated 155,000 rail passengers — almost half of them Dart passengers — who will be affected on each of the five strike days.
Management has also warned that the proposed and prolonged industrial action will cost the company which is already “dangerously close to insolvency”, with accumulated losses of €160m.
This article first appeared in the Irish Examiner.