More industrial action could follow train drivers’ vote to reject pay deal

Opposition linked to unhappiness over €500 voucher for Dunnes Stores

Train drivers have overwhelmingly rejected a proposed new 1.15 per cent pay rise for past productivity which would also have required them to take part in the training and mentoring of new staff.

Members of the National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) rejected the proposals by 93 per cent while members of Siptu voted by 83 per cent against the deal.

The NBRU and Siptu warned management if it now attempted to force drivers to take part in training of new staff, which up to now had been voluntary, it could lead to further industrial difficulties at the company which experienced two 24-hour strikes over pay late last year.

Irish Rail said that non-cooperation by existing staff with the training of new drivers was preventing the introduction of a planned ten-minute frequency Dart service and the expansion of other services.


The company said management would urgently consider the outcome of the ballot results.

The rejection of the deal, which was put forward by the Labour Court last year, has been linked by unions to dissatisfaction with management style in the State-owned rail operator and unhappiness surrounding a €500 tax-free voucher provided to staff in recent weeks as part of a settlement to a broader dispute over pay.

The NBRU had raised concerns that the voucher could only be used in one retailer, Dunnes Stores, and argued that similar vouchers given to staff in the other State-owned transport companies had been for a variety of outlets.


The union also signalled that some members were unhappy that to secure the Dunnes Stores voucher staff had to register via an Irish Rail email address. Some union members are understood to have been concerned that the move marked the first steps towards introduction by the company of electronic pay slips for staff.

Irish Rail said it regretted the decision by the drivers in Siptu and the NBRU.

“Following two years of engagement, the trade unions rejected a Labour Court recommendation and subsequent driver mentoring framework proposed by the former chairman of the Labour Court, which would have:

*delivered an immediate and further 1.15 per cent pay increase to drivers, on top of the 7.5 percent increase to all employees over three years agreed last month

*ensured driver training could be completed and guaranteed into the future, to allow for much needed service expansion

* given drivers an increase of almost 35 per cent in the allowance for driver mentoring.”


Irish Rail maintained that the non-cooperation with driver mentoring had been “orchestrated” by trade unions over the last 20 months and that this resulted in delays to the introduction of an increased 10-minute Dart service and prevented an expansion of other services such as off-peak commuter routes. It said the moves had also blocked career progression for trainee drivers.

“With preliminary passenger numbers issued by the NTA last week showing that we have now equalled our highest ever passenger numbers (45.5m in 2017, matching 2007 levels), this is restricting the company’s ability to meet the needs of our customers and the economy.”

Siptu organiser Paul Cullen said: "The result of this ballot demonstrates the depth of dissatisfaction among our members in the driving grade of Irish Rail following the failure of management to deal with their outstanding issues over the last number of years. It is also indicative of the shortcomings of management in dealing with industrial relations matters in Irish Rail and the dismissive behaviour displayed by the CEO of Irish Rail following a recent Labour Court recommendation on pay."

He added that his members were facing continuous change in a company that is acting in what he termed a non-compliant way with regard to agreements made with union representatives. “This is unacceptable. There is a severe lack of confidence in management’s ability to resolve the issues our members face. This result means the ball is now firmly in management’s court and their actions over the coming days will determine whether or not a fair and speedy resolution can be found. However, if management attempts to provoke a dispute, our members will not be found wanting in delivering a fair, swift and justifiable response.”

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is the former Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent