Yet another transport strike will hit Limerick this November and December as staff at Irish Rail will stage 24-hour strikes. Staff are in dispute with management about a pay rise. Irish Rail employees are seeking a rise of about 3.75 percent.
Rail unions have voted overwhelmingly for strike action and the 60 or so staff who work in Limerick will join their colleagues nationwide in a series of 24-hour stoppages. The strikes will take place on Wednesday, 1 November. Tuesday, 7 November, Tuesday, 14 November, Thursday, 23 November and Friday, 8 December. There is also concern that these walkouts could continue into the Christmas season and disrupt Christmas trade.
This is not the first major transport strike this year. In March, Bus Éireann staff went on a protracted strike, causing serious inconvenience and anger in the city. The bus strike lasted for three weeks – an unprecedented labour dispute in modern times.
Bus Éireann staff were striking against proposals to save the ailing company, which were to include cutting drivers’ pay and conditions. Pickets took place outside Colbert Station and there were major problems for those who rely on Bus Éireann for everyday travel.
The bus dispute was settled in April, with staff accepting job cuts, cuts in earnings and freezes on increments. The changes at Bus Éireann were part of a major overhaul to save the company from insolvency. Though there was some suggestion at the time that Irish Rail staff would join Bus Éireann employees in a sympathy strike, this did not become a major problem.
There seems to be little chance that buses will come out on strike in support of their Irish Rail colleagues but the threat of industrial action on the railways has raised the spectre of the recent bus strikes nonetheless. Travel between Limerick and other major transport hubs will be curtailed during the 24-hour stoppages and anyone who travels to and from Ennis for work, making use of the commuter train, will be seriously inconvenienced.
Trade unions representing Irish Rail workers place the blame squarely on management. In a joint statement issued by the
NBRU, Siptu, Unite, the TSSA and the TEEU, the unions said: “The responsibility for this dispute lies squarely with the chief executive and his management team at Irish Rail. The treatment meted out to staff over the last number of months, and in particular the debacle which occurred at the Workplace Relations Commission has been nothing short of contemptuous and will make a resolution to this dispute even more difficult, if not now impossible.”
Memories of the recent bus strike will make industrial action by train drivers even more unwelcome but it is hoped that the dispute can be solved before people begin Christmas shopping in earnest. Many shoppers rely on Irish Rail to make shopping trips to Dublin, Cork or further afield.