Ireland: Further severe disruption expected in rail dispute
Irish Times: May 16, 2006
Further severe disruption to rail services is expected today as a result of the unofficial action by train drivers that left up to 35,000 passengers stranded yesterday.
Services to and from Heuston Station in Dublin and Kent Station in Cork were the worst affected, but there was significant disruption throughout the south and west.
The dispute erupted after two Cork-based drivers refused to operate a new high-tech train which the company had planned to bring into service on a trial basis yesterday. All other Cork-based drivers stopped work in support of their two colleagues, as did all drivers based at Inchicore in Dublin. Half of those based in Limerick also joined the action.
As a result there were no services between Dublin and Cork, while only a limited number operated from the capital to Limerick, Galway, Westport and Waterford.
A similar level of disruption is expected today.
There were no indications that an early resolution to the dispute was likely, with the company insisting last night that it would not negotiate with staff engaged in unofficial action.
Industrial relations mediator Phil Flynn had been scheduled to meet the company and driver representatives today to discuss issues between them. However, he has cancelled this meeting as a result of the drivers' action. Mr Flynn will hold exploratory discussions today with union officials.
Iarnród Éireann is seeking to introduce a new generation of trains, known as the "Mark Four", as part of a €117 million investment in its rolling stock. Siptu and the National Bus and Rail Union sought a pay increase of 5 per cent for drivers, and a reduction in working hours, in return for the introduction of the new trains as well as other work changes.
The claim was rejected in January by the Labour Court, which said drivers were required to operate the new trains under a 2000 agreement with the company known as the "new deal". But the court said the sides should have further discussions on other issues, such as the application of new safety standards.
NBRU general secretary Liam Tobin said last night that there was "a perception" among the drivers that all of the issues would have been agreed before the new trains were introduced.
Iarnród Éireann, however, said the introduction of the trains was a separate matter which had been dealt with by the Labour Court.
Its director of business development, John Keenan, said talks on the outstanding issues had been taking place and in recent days the company had accepted the unions' suggestion that Mr Flynn be appointed as mediator.
"Really what has happened is that a small group of drivers have hijacked the process. That type of behaviour cannot and should not be rewarded in any way," he said.
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said the action was "particularly disappointing" given the investment that had been made in improving facilities for customers on the Dublin-Cork route. "It isn't the way to do business. There are extensive mechanisms available through the labour relations machinery to sort out this type of issue without causing major inconvenience to the public which is what happened on a wet Monday morning."
Iarnród Éireann warns of second day of disruption
RTE News: 15 May 2006
Iarnród Éireann is warning passengers that they may face a second day of disruption tomorrow as a result of unofficial industrial action by train drivers.
Up to 35,000 rail users were affected today because of the dispute over the introduction of new trains.
Iarnród Éireann says the last train has left Heuston Station for the night with the 7pm train to Galway - five other scheduled trains for later tonight have been cancelled.
Of a total of 50 scheduled departures from Heuston Station today only 13 trains left the station.
Services to the west and south were disrupted by the action, which began at around 6.30am this morning.
Drivers are demanding reduced working hours if they are to operate new Mark Four trains, which were introduced on the Cork line today.
Iarnród Éireann earlier advised people not to travel by train unless it was absolutely necessary to do so, with passengers who needed to travel advised to contact the company.
The company's website, www.irishrail.ie, is carrying details of any changes in the company's services arising from today's industrial action.
The Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, has said he is very disappointed at the drivers, particurlarly in the light of huge investment that the Government has made in Iarnród Éireann.
A small number of Inter City services left Heuston Station as scheduled this morning but the majority of services between Heuston and the south and west have been disrupted.
Iarnród Éireann has spent €117 million on 67 new carriages which it is hoped will hugely improve the frequency of its trains on the Dublin-Cork route by the end of the year.
The company had planned to introduce the first of those new trains on the route today for in-service training, but two drivers in Cork refused to operate the new trains.
The drivers have not been suspended but the company says it has told them they will not be paid until they operate the new trains.
A number of other drivers are now refusing to work in support of their colleagues.
Labour Court ruled against drivers
In January, the Labour Court ruled against drivers who were seeking a pay increase for operating the new trains.
Negotiations are continuing on other issues relating to extra money for agreeing to more stringent monitoring of driver standards and for coaching trainee drivers.
The company says it is committed to concluding an agreement on these issues but says they are not connected to the introduction of the new trains.
The drivers dispute this and say they cannot operate the new trains until an agreement has been concluded.
The drivers also say they have concerns about the training they received on the trains prior to their introduction to service.