Iarnród Éireann has warned staff that it will unilaterally introduce a controversial cost-saving plan including pay cuts if there is no agreement on cost reductions as part of a one-week intensive round of talks.
The Labour Court recommendations, which include pay cuts ranging from 1.7 per cent to 6.1 per cent to apply for a 28-month period, were rejected over recent weeks by members of the Siptu and the National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU).
The cuts set out under the Labour Court recommendation are to be applied immediately to the terms and conditions of members of the senior management team itself at the State-run train company.
In an email to staff the chief executive of Iarnród Éireann David Franks said: "We have exhausted the avenues provided for under the industrial relations machinery of the State over the past 19 months, with extensive engagements under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission and the Labour Court. This has included three separate proposals formally balloted upon by colleagues.
“There is nowhere else to turn. The responsibility for securing these savings now falls on ourselves: management and workforce collectively.”
Iarnród Éireann described the savings required on its payroll costs as “critical” and said that if the engagement with trade unions next week failed to achieve progress, it would then move to implement the Labour Court recommendation.
Earlier this week, members of Siptu voted to take industrial action, but not strikes, in the event of management unilaterally moving to change the terms and conditions of employment of its members.
Mr Franks said he believed there was a willingness on all sides to constructively engage.
“ I earnestly hope that this will allow us to progress and address together the other challenges facing our company.”
NBRU general secretary Dermot O’Leary this afternoon said it was regrettable that the company had decided to impose a precondition in advance of the talks by indicating that it would implement the cost retrenchment measures without agreement.
He said while his union had never refused to engage in any process which sought to progress issues, it did not believe the responsibility for securing the future of the train operator rested exclusively with staff.
“It appears that the Minister [for Transport, Leo Varadkar’s] sole role here is to goad staff into a reaction in an effort to deflect from his own responsibilities.”
He said reducing the State subvention to the train company was not compatible with an expectation that current service levels could be maintained.
“This [issue] and the necessity to robustly attack the non-payroll cost base will have to be factored into any discussions.”
NBRU members have voted by a three-to-one margin to reject the Labour Court plan, but the union has not balloted members on industrial action.
Other staff at the company represented by TEEU and Unite as well as clerical personnel who are members of the TSSA have voted to back the cost-saving plan.
A spokesman for Siptu said it would be attending the talks next week.