Iarnród pay cut plan ‘provocative’ says rail union

NBRU to ballot 500 members at State train operator on action up to and including strike

The latest amended cost-saving plan, which was rejected by Siptu members, emerged following direct talks between management and trade unions at Iarnród Éireann several weeks ago and was based on an earlier Labour Court recommendation.

The latest amended cost-saving plan, which was rejected by Siptu members, emerged following direct talks between management and trade unions at Iarnród Éireann several weeks ago and was based on an earlier Labour Court recommendation.

Fri, Jul 18, 2014, 17:54

The prospect of significant disruption to train services from next month have increased following a decision by Iarnród Éireann to introduce unilaterally a controversial cost-saving programme including pay cuts for staff.

The National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) described the company’s move as “provocative” and said it would ballot its 500 members at the State-owned train operator for industrial action up to and including an all-out strike.

Siptu, which has about 2,000 members at the company, said it would engage in industrial action if the cost cutting plan went ahead.

Iarnród Éireann said it would implement measures to achieve payroll savings across its workforce from Sunday, August 24th.

The proposals – which involve a temporary reduction in basic pay ranging from 1.7 per cent for staff earning €56,000 or less (74 per cent of the workforce) up to 6.1 per cent for those earning over €100,000 - had been rejected by the trade union Siptu and the NBRU, although they were accepted by the TSSA, TEEU and Unite trade unions.

Minister for Transport Pascal Donohoe said if disruption was to go ahead on the railways it would exacerbate the position of the company.

He said in the four-week window that was now available prior to the planned implementation of the cost-saving measures, he would urge everyone in the organisation to come together and find a way to deliver the savings required.

Mr Donohoe said Iarnród Éireann had accumulated €147 million in debt on its books over the last six years. He said there had already been four separate ballots on the cost-cutting proposals.

Iarnród Éireann chief executive David Franks told staff “it has always been my wish to secure these savings by agreement, and I very much regret we have been unable to achieve this with all trade unions”.

“Having reviewed the situation, however, I have come to the conclusion that we must introduce these measures to protect the company, our services, and your security of employment.”

Mr Franks said “the timescale [for implementation] as well as meeting the requirements of our agreed procedures will allow all colleagues the opportunity to consider our financial situation and, I hope, understand why these measures are unavoidable.”

Iarnród Éireann last month unilaterally introduced the pay cuts for senior management and the company said members of its board had implemented a reduction in directors’ fees.

Last week, members of Siptu rejected the latest plan put forward to generate savings at the company, which has been hit by a falling State subvention, reductions in passenger numbers and rising fuel prices.

The latest amended cost-saving plan, which was rejected by Siptu members, emerged following direct talks between management and trade unions at the train company several weeks ago and was based on an earlier Labour Court recommendation. The NBRU had withdraw from the talks.

Under Labour Court proposals, staff would have faced pay cuts of between 1.7 per cent and 6.1 per cent for 28 months. Following subsequent direct talks between management and unions last month, it was agreed the duration of the proposed cuts would be reduced to 25 months, subject to additional savings being realised from non-pay areas.

NBRU general secretary Dermot O’Leary said: “Our members have rejected proposals over three separate ballots, we have been telling the company and the Government that our members are not prepared to plug the funding gap created by the reduction in subvention back to 1998 levels.

“This is yet another example of a public service being starved of the necessary support to maintain its current service levels - our members have not had a pay rise since 2008 and have contributed enormously and without recognition to the evolvement of a modern rail system.”

The NBRU said the reduction in the State subvention to Iarnród Éireann “should automatically” have led to a comprehensive review of service levels on the railways which should have focused on “curtailments rather than line closures”.