Minister says strikes cost Iarnród Éireann €1.5 million in lost revenue

Donohoe says Labour Relations Commission stands ready to intervene in dispute

Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe at the Cliffs of Moher in Clare to launch the new Ennis-Galway Bus Éireann routes. Photograph: Brian Arthur/Press 22

Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe at the Cliffs of Moher in Clare to launch the new Ennis-Galway Bus Éireann routes. Photograph: Brian Arthur/Press 22

Wed, Aug 27, 2014, 01:01

The two-day strike which halted all train services across the country on Sunday and Monday cost Iarnród Éireann €1.5 million in lost revenue, the Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe has said.

As unions at the company prepare for further industrial action in September over the introduction of temporary pay cuts, the Minister said all sides should seriously reflect on the consequences of the past few days on a company that was already in a very difficult financial situation.

He said a revenue loss of €1.5 million to a company that had already generated accumulated losses of just under €150 million over recent years was going to make the current situation at the State-owned rail operator quite difficult.

Mr Donohoe said the Labour Relations Commission stood ready to intervene in the dispute. He said the issue of the cost-saving plan at the company had already been before the LRC and the Labour Court over the past 20 months .

However, he said, “the next intervention will be vital”.

“I really appreciate the disruption that was caused to commuters over the past two days . I also appreciate the difficulty in asking for people to vote for their own wages to be cut, and the work the unions and workers have already done to deliver productivity gains and deliver reforms to Irish Rail. But in recognition of the very difficult situation that the company is in,” he added, “these savings through payroll are necessary.”

The Minister also said that if the further planned strikes all went ahead, workers at the company would lose more money than they would have under the wage cuts put forward by management at the company.

He said he was very committed to working with the rail company as the services it provided were very important to the country and to the wellbeing of the economy. “I will work with people in relation to the grave difficulty that is there at the moment.”

Speaking in Co Clare, the Minister said he would argue “very strongly for funding that is needed to maintain services, and look at what can be done to support the company”. However, he maintained that the kind of payroll savings that would affect staff at Iarnród Éireann had been implemented across many other parts of the CIÉ group. He said the pay cuts were vital to the viability of the rail company.

Asked whether he should intervene personally in the dispute, the Minister said: “I have heard again a number of people calling on me to become personally involved in the dispute at this stage. I would just urge people to remember that when such calls are made, the question has to be asked: with whose money will such an intervention be paid for? And of course, the person who ultimately will pay is the taxpayer and the country at large.”

Asked whether he was confident that the dispute could be resolved before the planned days of strike action later this month, Mr Donohoe said: “The bodies who have the expertise to deal with this are monitoring the situation extremely carefully, and I would urge everyone to reflect on the consequences of the last two days.”

An estimated 60,000 people on Sunday and 100,000 people on Monday had their travel plans disrupted as a result of the strikes which were undertaken by members of Siptu and the National Bus and Railworkers’ Union.

The unions are planning further stoppages on September 7th, 8th and 21st.