Rail union to ballot members on strike action

Workers in dispute with Iarnród Éireann over cuts and conditions

Sun, Jun 15, 2014, 13:04

The National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) will ballot its 500 members at Iarnród Éireann for a mandate for strike action if the company moves to unilaterally impose cuts to the terms and conditions of staff.

The union said yesterday it had withdrawn from a process to discuss cost-saving measures at the State-owned train operator.

It claimed the company was not serious about dealing with its members’ concerns during the talks process over recent days.

The company had previously stated it would seek to put in place measures - including pay cuts - aimed at generating cost reductions if no agreement was reached in a week of talks with unions which commenced last Tuesday.

Siptu, which represents around 2,000 staff at the company, will meet tomorrow to consider its response to last week’s talks with management. Siptu members voted a number of weeks ago to undertake industrial action, but not to go on strike, in the event of the company unilaterally imposing cuts.

A spokesman for Iarnród Éireann urged the NBRU to reconsider its decision. He said if the company did not secure the savings it was seeking it would put at risk the livlihoods of all employees including the NBRU’s own members.

He said the company was still engaging with trade unions representing over 3,000 other staff.

Members of the NBRU and Siptu both rejected Labour Court proposals aimed at realising cost savings at the train company which has been hit over recent years by a falling State subvention, reductions in passenger numbers and rising fuel prices.

The Labour Court proposals were accepted by unions representing smaller numbers of staff at the company.

Under the Labour Court proposals, staff would have faced pay cuts of between 1.7 per cent and 6.1 per cent for a period of 28 months.

Following the talks last week, unions and management agreed to amend parts of these proposals. The document drawn up after last week’s talks provided for the duration of the pay cuts should be reduced to 25 months subject to additional savings being realised from non-pay areas.

A document also said that even if the State’s subvention to Iarnród Éireann was reduced further in the future, management would not seek additional concessions from staff.

NBRU general secretary Dermot O’Leary told members this weekend: “At the outset we presented the company with an agenda that would have recognised the requirement for a dividend for the contribution of staff in realising €37m of savings since 2009, the requirement for services to match current subvention levels and a route towards sharing in future savings.

“The above agenda would have had the potential to partially address the trust issue by its potential to engage in joint discussions on the future of the company. Unfortunately it appears that the company were only interested in addressing an agenda which involved a tweak here and there along with moving words around the page.”

Mr O’Leary said that nothing the union had heard in the talks over recent days had led it to believe “that the company or indeed the Government can be trusted not to continue with their agenda of imposing the responsibility for funding shortfalls and plugging financial gaps onto the backs of workers”.

“The onus remains with the company and Government to address the concerns of all staff at Irish Rail, however it now appears that they are on a course of divide and conquer, a course which may perhaps, regretfully be aided and abetted by some on the workers side.”

He said the NBRU remained available to discuss all the issues of concern to its members. “We have already indicated that provocation will inevitably result in a reaction, members can be assured that they will ultimately decide on what that reaction will be.”