Irish Rail strike: When may it happen and what’s it all about?
Q&A: What do rail workers want and will tickets be refunded?
The probable date mooted for strikes is the October bank holiday weekend between Friday 27th and Monday 30th October. Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times
Q. How did this dispute come about?
A. Rail workers have been agitating for pay increases since the recession ended, and have watched on enviously as their equivalents in Dublin Bus and Luas have secured substantial pay rises. Talks had been ongoing between unions and company management at the Workplace Relations Commission up to Wednesday, when unions walked out following what they described as a “derisory” offer from management.
Q. What form will the industrial action take?
A. While rail strikes are now a distinct possibility from next month, we are still thought to be some way off a scenario of all-out strike as was threatened during the Luas dispute last year. The ballots taken by unions will likely provide a mandate for rolling stoppages and strike action, measures which will be implemented as deemed fit by union leaders.
Q. When might a strike happen?
A. Unions representing Irish Rail staff are likely to take a number of weeks to carry out ballots for industrial action, and the company will have to be informed at least a week in advance of any work stoppage, meaning the probable date mooted for strikes is the October bank holiday weekend between Friday 27th and Monday 30th of next month.
Q. What do Irish Rail staff want?
A. Staff at the company are seeking a 3.75 per cent pay rise without any additional productivity measures attached. They link the demand to concessions around pay and conditions made by workers during the recessionary period. However, the company is still some way off meeting that valuation having offered a 1.5 per cent salary increase with conditions attached, including outsourcing and the closure of some rail lines.
Q. Is the Minister for Transport likely to intervene?
A. No is the short answer, but it is difficult to predict what might happen should things get worse. Shane Ross has traditionally taken a strong anti-interventionist line when it comes to pay disputes in semi-state bodies. Unions claim an increased State subvention to Irish Rail can help wipe out the company’s accumulated debt of €160 million, but this claim is likely to fall on deaf ears in the Department of Transport.
Q. Will my ticket be refunded if a strike occurs?
A. The company will be offering refunds for prepaid ticket holders for any future service disruption caused by strike action, as is customary. It is expected that Irish Rail will organise contingency measures for passengers who may be inconvenienced on the day of any potential strike with bus transfers and/or ticket redemptions.
Q. What rail lines might close?
A. Irish Rail claims to be facing a funding shortfall of €100 million per year, much of which is attributed to having to financially prop-up loss-making services in rural areas. The company has identified the Limerick to Ballybrophy, Ennis to Athenry, Gorey to Rosslare and Limerick Junction to Waterford routes as being particularly problematic, and these lines are expected to be among the top targets for any cost reduction measures.