Limerick commuters could face travel disruption as train drivers to ballot on strike action

Nick Rabbitts

Reporter:

Nick Rabbitts

Email:

nick@limerickleader.ie

Train drivers in Limerick face strike ballot

Train drivers in Limerick also set up a picket in 2014

LIMERICK rail passengers could be facing delays and cancellations after a union announced it is to ballot its members for strike action.

The National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) says it will ballot all of its train drivers for “all-out strike action”, in response to what they say is Irish Rail changing its terms and conditions within the training regime without their agreement.

Some 60 staff work for Irish Rail in Limerick’s Colbert station, which is a hub for services to Dublin, Galway, Cork and Waterford.

The NBRU’s general secretary Dermot O'Leary said: “The management at Iarnrod Éireann have set themselves on a course of major confrontation with its train drivers as a result of their decision to dispense with longstanding practice, by completely ignoring the jointly agreed procedures around how industrial relation matters are addressed. The fact is that the agreed training regime at the company is currently one of a voluntarist nature, and is solely at the discretion of the individual driver. The decision to break this agreement by forcing actual changes to terms and conditions onto workers is both unprecedented and contrary to how disputed matters should be addressed within our dispute procedures.”

Mr O'Leary claimed Irish Rail bosses ignored union suggestions, and as a result, he has written to the Workplace Relations Commission to look for an intervention.

If workers do strike, it will be the second time in less than six months it happens.

Last November, workers took place in a series of walkouts in a row over pay and conditions.

In a statement, Irish Rail says the union not agreeing with a new training regime has stalled the rollout of increased Dart and commuter services.

"In addition, this has seen the career progression of over 30 trainee drivers – employees and trade union members - stalled, as trade union non-cooperation prevented them from completing training, training which existing drivers have benefited from in the past," the statement said.

"We have engaged repeatedly and extensively with our trade unions to resolve this over the past two years, under the auspices of the Workplace Relations Commission and Labour Court, resulting in a Labour Court recommendation last July addressing driver mentoring and past productivity. The trade unions requested a further engagement to develop a framework with the assistance of Kevin Duffy, former Chairman of the Labour Court, which was agreed to by Iarnród Éireann.

"However, this recommendation and framework was rejected, and we now see the pressures on driver resources becoming intolerable in the face of growing demand."

The firm wrote to both the NBRU and Siptu advising them this recommendation would now be implemented, and urged them to call off any strike ballot.

"Industrial action would damage the interests of commuters and drivers alike. We would welcome the opportunity for urgent engagement with trade unions through the industrial relations machinery of the state to resumed training is delivered at the earliest opportunity, for the good of our customers, and trainee driver colleagues," the statement concluded.