Train passengers could face widespread travel ‘chaos’, union warns

National Bus and Rail Union could be ‘forced into’ summer and autumn disruption as it seeks pay rises

Train passengers could face widespread travel chaos on the country’s railways in the summer and autumn, one of the country’s main transport unions has warned.  Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Train passengers could face widespread travel chaos on the country’s railways in the summer and autumn, one of the country’s main transport unions has warned. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

 

Train passengers could face widespread travel chaos on the country’s railways in the summer and autumn, one of the country’s main transport unions has warned.

The National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) accused the Government and management in Iarnród Éireann of “playing Russian roulette” with transport policy.

Unions at the State train operator are seeking pay rises at least along the lines of the 3.75 per cent increase secured by Dublin Bus workers after a strike last autumn.

However the company has said pay increases could not be afforded given severe financial difficulties being experienced.

The Irish Times reported on Tuesday that the company had told the Labour Court in a confidential submission that it was projecting a further €6 million deficit this year which would leave it only about €2 million ahead of insolvency.

The company said it had accumulated losses of €159 million.

NBRU general secretary Dermot O’Leary said that by reducing State funding by over 39 per cent since 2008, successive Governments had forced Iarnród Éireann “to preach the poor mouth to its own staff, who through two cost-cutting programmes”.

He said the company was reporting passenger numbers back at Celtic Tiger levels, significant increases in revenue and payroll reductions of €25 million as well as higher productivity levels as a result of a 19.4 per cent reduction in staffing levels.

“This is in direct contradiction with the so-called insolvency threat being peddled by Iarnród Éireann management to workers that have had the temerity to ask for a pay rise after nine long years of austerity. Iarnród Éireann’s spendthrift policy on everything bar pay-rises must also be investigated in light of its ‘we have no money’ statements to the Labour Court.”

Mr O’Leary said the reality was that the company had been instructed by the Department of Transport not to make provision for a long- overdue pay rise.

“The fact is that there is a direct link between Government underfunding and the company’s accumulated deficit. The irony being that the National Transport Authority in a review leaked last autumn, has recommended that the years of underfunding (2010 to 2016) should be compensated by a cash injection of circa €125 million. What we are actually witnessing here is a systematic attack on State-owned public transport companies and workers.

Mr O’Leary said the recent Bus Éireann dispute “clearly demonstrated that an agenda exists within Government circles, to drag the CIÉ Companies and their workforce through a series of industrial disputes in order to feed a pro-privatisation agenda”.

“It is long since passed time that those who provide support for this Government cried halt to this Russian roulette transport policy, before we are forced into a summer and autumn of chaos across our railways.”