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I'm not intervening, says Minister --- as talks to avoid rail strikes begin again

Two more rail strikes are planned for this month, but it’s hoped a solution can be reached at LRC talks continuing this afternoon.

Paschal Donohoe in Dublin this afternoon.
Paschal Donohoe in Dublin this afternoon.
Image: Daragh Brophy/TheJournal.ie

TRANSPORT MINISTER PASCHAL Donohoe said this afternoon that he had no plans to involve himself directly in efforts to resolve the long-running dispute at Irish Rail, as unions and management arrived for a second day of talks at the LRC.

There have been calls for the Minister to intervene in the row, and speaking today, Dermot O’Leary of the National Bus and Rail Workers Union said that as far as he was concerned there were three parties to the row — the company, the workers and the Government.

However, speaking at an event in Dublin city centre, Donohoe insisted the Labour Relations Commission was the best forum to reach a resolution, stressing that it was a “non-political body” that had “expertise and experience” in the area.

The NBRU, SIPTU and Irish Rail made separate submissions to the LRC in the first day of exploratory talks on Saturday.

Speaking afterwards, SIPTU organiser Paul Cullen said that there had been “no progress” as yet. The LRC has been assessing each submission over the weekend, and it’s hoped some headway can be made today.

“There’s a spirit between all parties, groups and stakeholders to try and understand today the significance of any dispute going forward,” Irish Rail Human Resources Director Ciaran Masterson said on his way into today’s meeting.

Strikes

Up to 100,000 people are estimated to have been affected by a 48-hour rail strike held last Sunday and Monday.

More stoppages have been scheduled for 7, 8 and 21 September. The All-Ireland Hurling Final is due to take place on the 7th, while the football final will be held on the 21st.

The dispute centres on a pay cut which Irish Rail insists is necessary to plug a hole in the company’s finances.

Workers earning below €50,000 are being hit with a reduction of 1.7 per cent, with those above the 50k mark facing a 2.5 per cent decrease.

No change

Donohoe said that he would not be proposing any further cuts in Government investment in Irish Rail as he negotiated his Department’s Budget.

But he said, “we’re also dealing with an organisation which 60 per cent of the total costs of it are in relation to payroll”.

That is why achieving these savings are a vital contribution to the future of Irish Rail.

Asked by a reporter whether he was calling for the planned strikes to be called off, he said:

I want to respect the role of the LRC and respect the decisions that management and unions have already made to begin these discussions.

Though he added that any continuation of the industrial action would have a “negative effect on the company”.

Read: Get caught by today’s rail strike? There’s two more planned (and unions won’t rule out even more)

Read: Woman turns up at Mayo school and threatens principal with a knife

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