Train drivers at Iarnród Éireann are set to receive a pay increase of 1.15 per cent. This is to take account of productivity measures implemented in the past but for which they received no payment.
The increase, which has been recommended by the Labour Court in recent days, also covers the introduction of new mandatory arrangements for existing drivers to mentor new trainee drivers.
The Labour Court has separately urged unions and management at the company to return to the Workplace Relations Commission for talks on claims for a general pay rise for staff across the State-owned train operator.
Unions had originally indicated they would be seeking increases of about 21 per cent over several years. This was later scaled back to the level of the 3.75 per cent annual increases given to Dublin Bus staff last year. However, informed sources suggested a new target may be along the lines of the rises secured by public-service workers under their new draft deal with the Government. For most staff this will range from 6.2 per cent to 7.4 per cent over the next three years.
However, the company argued in a supplementary submission to the Labour Court that any increases not funded by further productivity measures would have a “catastrophic impact ” on its financial position. It said imposing additional costs “at this juncture would have a very serious impact on the employment prospects for all our staff and for the long-term future of the railway”.
The company said it had accumulated losses of €159 million since 2007.
It forecast that a 1 per cent rise would cost €2.6 million next year and €7.8 million by 2020. It projected a 3.75 per cent increase could cost €29.4 million by 2020.
Unions argued in submissions to the Labour Court that there had been major improvements in both passenger and revenue numbers at the company. They said these had now “exceeded Celtic Tiger levels”.
Unions said a conservative forecast of 2017 revenue suggested this could increase by 2.7 per cent, which would generate an additional €6.5 million.
Unions contended that over the last 14 months the company had spent nearly €50 million from its own funds on areas such as heavy maintenance, payroll systems , wifi and catering.
“It is our strong contention that the money spent ... from ‘own funds’ is actually money practically pilfered from Iarnród Éireann’s own employees and siphoned off to act as a proxy for items which should be capital-funded by the exchequer, similar indeed to the Luas infrastructure.
“It also must be stressed that if rail operations money is being spent on wifi or catering or carpark, profits, or portions thereof, generated from park and ride, catering sales or monetisation of the wifi should be ring-fenced for pay increases.”
Drivers at the company are expected to receive the additional 1.15 per cent rises for past productivity on top of any increase arising from the general claim.
The past productivity for which the new payment will be made includes the “de-manning” of some train stations, which unions argued led to increased duties for drivers as well as reductions in the numbers of driving staff.
The Labour Court said on the general pay claim that it had concerns “that direct engagement between the parties and indeed engagement at the Workplace Relations Commission has not been as effective as it could have been.
“The court understands the reasons for that situation but, given the divergence between the parties on the matters in dispute, is most concerned that all possibilities to refine the dispute have not been exploited.”
The group of unions at the company told members in recent days that they would fully engage “within all the parameters laid down by the Labour Court”.
However, the unions warned that “if we find that Iarnród Éireann are not ‘playing ball’ then we will immediately seek a mandate for industrial action in order to force the company to do right by its own staff”.