Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Questions (957, 983)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

957. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his position on the way the current industrial relations difficulties at Irish Rail can be resolved. [23529/14]

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Terence Flanagan

Question:

983. Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if there are plans to implement wage cuts for employees in Irish Rail; if he has held meetings with the CEO of Irish Rail to discuss this matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22824/14]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 957 and 983 together.

The issue raised by the Deputies is a matter for Irish Rail management and their employees and trade unions and has been the subject of lengthy negotiations under the auspices of the Labour Relations Committee (LRC) and the Labour Court. I have had a number of meetings with the Chief Executive Officer of Irish Rail, during the course of which he has updated me on the progress of efforts through the LRC and the Labour Court to reach agreement on cost savings. 

As you know, Irish Rail is in a precarious financial situation and is dependent on continued bank funding which can be withdrawn should it not meet certain milestones.  Irish Rail has incurred accumulated losses (after subvention) of €148m over the period 2008 to 2013, a position which is unsustainable.  The cost savings agreed last year by Bus Éireann and Dublin Bus workers had to be implemented and I had hoped that the discussion with the Irish Rail unions, under the auspices of the LRC and the Labour Court, would also be successfully concluded. 

The Labour Court issued a recommendation on Friday 11th April which concluded that the measures sought by Irish Rail were "unavoidable if the future of the Company and the employment that it maintains is to be protected".  I welcome the strong positive acceptance of the cost saving measures by a significant number of Irish Rail employees but regrettably SIPTU members voted against the proposals, although by a very narrow margin.  I understand that the NBRU ballot will be concluded this week. 

I am sure that all Deputies share my hope that a resolution will be found to assist the company in getting its finances back on a sustainable footing. It is essential for the future of Irish Rail's jobs, as well as the company, that unions reach agreement with management regarding payroll savings. There have already been substantial fare increases and the payroll savings must happen in the context of the very difficult financial challenges that the company faces.