Irish Rail chief to return early from holiday in advance of strike

Company set to lose €500,000 in State funding if services cancelled as planned

Iarnród Éireann is to lose €500,000 in State funding if services are cancelled as a result of planned strike action due to commenceon Sunday. A decision by the company’s chief executive to holiday in Mauritius during the dispute has also been criticised.   Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times.

Iarnród Éireann is to lose €500,000 in State funding if services are cancelled as a result of planned strike action due to commenceon Sunday. A decision by the company’s chief executive to holiday in Mauritius during the dispute has also been criticised. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times.

Fri, Aug 22, 2014, 00:20

The chief executive of Iarnród Éireann David Franks is to return to Ireland early from his holidays in advance of a planned strike which is expected to bring train services to a standstill on Sunday and Monday.

There had been criticism of the absence of Mr Franks, who had been on holiday in Mauritius, at a time when around 100,000 passengers per day were facing disruption to their travel plans.

Iarnród Éireann said that Mr Franks had brought forward his return travel arrangements to Saturday and would lead the management of the situation from the company’s head office from Sunday morning.

“Throughout the time in which chief executive David Franks has been abroad, he has remained in constant contact and has been leading the management of the industrial relations issues we are facing. This has included conference calls with the senior management team up to and including this morning, with a further conference call planned with the wider management group tomorrow, as well as ongoing phone and email contact.”

Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe said that he welcomed the decision of Mr Franks to return to Ireland “`given that industrial action now looks set to go ahead”.

Mr Donohoe this morning said he would not intervene in the dispute. He told RTÉ radio the State’s industrial relations machinery was monitoring the situation in Irish Rail and would “engage at the appropriate time”.

The Irish Times understands that Iarnród Éireannwill lose €500,000 in State funding if services are cancelled as a result of planned strike action due to commenceon Sunday.

Additional cuts will be made to its subvention if further strike action planned for next month hits services for passengers.

The National Transport Authority confirmed it would be reducing the State subvention to the State-owned train operator if services were cancelled.

Iarnród Éireann has told passengers that rail services across the country are not expected to operate on Sunday 24th and Monday 25th August due to industrial action. It has said that further industrial action is threatened for 7th and 8th September and 21st September.

The industrial action is being undertaken by members of the National Bus and Rail Union and Siptu in protest at plans by the company to implement unilaterally a controversial cost-saving programme which includes temporary pay cuts .

The National Transport Authority said that it would be reducing the scale of the subvention to Iarnród Éireann by €500,000 for the planned stoppages this weekend.

It said if the planned 5 days of strike action over the next few weeks hit services, the company would face a reduction in its State funding of more than €1.2 million.

The company receives about €117 million overall in annual funding from the State.

Rail tickets will not be valid on the services of bus operators during the planned dispute.

However Iarnród Éireann said customers with tickets could seek a refund while those with monthly or annual commuter tickets could seek money back for the days on which services were cancelled.

The National Transport Authority also said that 20 private bus operators will be providing additional capacity on their regularly scheduled services on the days of industrial action at the train company.

Next month’s two stoppages coincide with the All-Ireland Hurling final and the All Ireland-Football final fixtures. The strike this month coincides with the All-Ireland Football semi-final.

The cost saving measures 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.

The measures were accepted by the TSSA, TEEU and Unite trade unions but rejected by the NBRU and Siptu.