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Rail union 'unsurprised' at Taoiseach's 'ignorant' claim that strikes won't affect pay deal

The Taoiseach said that whatever deal is struck at the end of the dispute won’t be affected by the announced strike action.

Irish Rail Revenue Protection Officer Harry Delaney from Dublin joins train drivers and rail workers picket outside Heuston Train Station in Dublin.
Irish Rail Revenue Protection Officer Harry Delaney from Dublin joins train drivers and rail workers picket outside Heuston Train Station in Dublin.
Image: Sam Boal via RollingNews.ie

MINISTER FOR TRANSPORT Shane Ross has said he’s “taking heed” of the Taoiseach’s comments that the strikes by Iarnrod Éireann drivers won’t make a difference to their pay.

Meanwhile, unions have labelled the Taoiseach’s comments as “ignorant of industrial relations” and “unsurprising”.

While on a trade mission in the US, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told journalists that the strike will end in a deal that “will be no different than if there’d be no strike at all”.

Today, the Transport Minister said that he would take the Taoiseach’s comments on board.

“The Taoiseach is expressing an opinion which he’s made as a very experienced Minister for Transport. And that’s something which I have to take heed to. We’ll never actually know… We can’t tell whether that’s actually going to be true, but of course it’s a fair judgement to make.”

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, Dermot O’Leary of the National Bus and Rail Union said that he wasn’t surprised by the government’s position.

“Leo Varadkar’s ignorance of industrial relations does not surprise us bearing in mind that this is a man who has held many briefs in government, including Transport, and he has not exactly covered himself in glory in any of them.”

He said that the legacy the Taoiseach had left of the three portfolios he has held, was the welfare fraud campaign, which was criticised as an attack on those who are less well-off.

In terms of the point he makes, if he had knowledge of how this will be settled, he should tell Shane Ross to effect a resolution.

Commenting on reports in the Irish Independent that train strikes could be called on days up to and including Christmas Eve, O’Leary said that those fears were well-founded.

20/10/2017 Heuston Railway Stations Source: RollingNews.ie

A strike day was held yesterday, the 1 November, affecting approximately 155,000 Irish Rail commuters. Further actions have been announced for 7, 14 and 23 November and 8 December.

He said they were “keeping the issue under review” but if the strike goes on for three or four more days without a resolution, they would be a “clamour” from its members “to ramp up” their industrial action.

Negotiations between staff and management have been ongoing for a number of months with many workers claiming they had not received a pay increase in the last 10 years.

O’Leary said that there needed to be a provision within contracts between the State and transport companies for reviewing pay packages.

He also added that although the strikes were inconvenient for the public, that there was sympathy for Irish Rail workers.

“Some people have had pay rises and some have had not – but a lot of people who have not are not represented by unions. But at least my members have a voice to advance those issues and a chance to receive a pay rise.

“Public opinion is fickle, and understandably so,” O’Leary said.

“However people see themselves in this dispute, given that some of them have not had pay rises themselves in over ten years, they may not have the voice that Irish Rail staff have as members of a union – some might see their interests served by proxy to our members’ pay claim.”

Read: Here’s how to get your refund if you’re affected by the Irish Rail strike

Read: Heading home? Expect delays as Irish Rail strike means there’s an extra 155,000 people on the roads

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