Another 24 Hours of Rail Strikes
The following is a conversation between an Irish Rail Worker(RW) and his Neighbour (Joe Soap) held in their Local Bar about Irish Rail and the Dispute.
The characters portrayed herein (Minister Ross and Department, NTA and Irish Rail personnel aside) are fictitious. No identification with actual persons is intended or should be inferred.
J.S. Exactly who is in Charge?
R.W. First Port of Call has to be the Minister for Transport Shane Ross.
J.S. What has he done?
R.W. The NBRU sent him a comprehensive Document on the 10th June 2016, outlining exactly what would happen if Industrial Relations and workers issues across the CIE Group of Companies were not satisfactorily addressed.
J.S. What issues?
R.W. Up to ten years without a Pay Rise, Money Owed, Pay Cuts.
J.S. What has the Minister done since he was sent Document?
R.W. Well, he’s been to France for the Euros last year (he’s also Minister for Sport), he’s been to Rio for Olympics where among other official duties, he had breakfast with Pat Hickey, oops, I mean Pat Hickey ‘ate Shane for Breakfast’ he’s been spotted at All Ireland Finals and the opening of Pairc Ui Chaoimh as well.
J.S. Wait a while, have I been asleep a while? Sounds like your describing the President of Ireland here. Anything else of note with Ross the Boss?
R.W. Where to start with this guy? Let me see, he’s been campaigning to change how Judges are selected, there was controversy with Enda Kenny over a free vote on Repeal the Eight, was seen standing alongside Leo at the National Emergency Coordination Group during Hurricane Ophelia, out and about with Kevin Boxer Moran getting his picture taken in Donegal during recent floods up there.
J.S. What about his ‘inner circle’?
R.W. His inner circle includes a former Sunday Independent colleague, who was appointed to the post of his PR Person at a cost, we believe of circa €80000 per annum!!, this same person is as a failed candidate from the last General Election.
J.S. Hang on a minute, is this the same Shane Ross that used to give it loads during his time as the Champion of the People on the back page of the Sindo? Quangos, rotten politics etc?
R.W. Hold on, not finished yet, the bold Shane has also found the time to object to some much-needed housing in his South Dublin Constituency, and of course the BIGGIE, he Got STEPASIDE Garda Station reopened. All of this apparently comes with his new Brief. New Politics I think they calls it.
J.S. YOUR JOIKING…sounds like he’s turned native to me, more like the kinda ‘Stroke’ politics that he said he was determined to wipe-out, exactly how many varieties of New Ross Politics are there?
R.W. Not sure really, though Heinz 57 comes to mind, he’s also been speaking about teachers pay in recent months.
And did you see the goings on over last few days with ‘Rocket’
Ross trooping off to North Korea to meet Kim Jong-un and sort World Peace?
J.S. What ya on about? North Korea? In the name of God???
R.W. Well his good friends Groucho Marx Halligan, (AKA Comical Hally)has decided that they haven’t enough to be doing in little ole Ireland so they want head off to North Korea, have a chat with Kim Jong-un and prevent World War 3…
J.S Wha..?? sur those muppets couldn’t stop laughing . Ya mean to tell me that the same shams that can’t sort out 4000 Irish rail workers are going off to save the 6 billion people on the planet from nuclear war?
Pardon the pun now buddy, but this shower are gone off the Rails.
R.W. apparently Mr Halligan said we’ve nothing to lose..
J.S. Nothing to lose? I think Comical Hally and Rocket Ross have lost the plot, I’d let them off on one condition.
R.W. Whats that?
J.S. They’d go on a One Way Ticket..!?
R.W. Well, for all the good they’re doing here, they may as well be in North Korea
J.S. What about the Taoiseach, whats he saying about this mad notion?
R.W. You mean Beauty and the Beast Varadkar?
J.S. What ya on about?
R.W. Well, he’s in the U.S. talking to Cooking Apples about putting one of their Orchards in the Fields of Athenry!
J.S. In the name of buffers, who’s he talking to?
R.W. Tim Cook from Apple, seems some objectors stole Trevelyan’s Apples, or is it Corn, all confusing to me, but anyway, Taoiseach apparently said that he’d be afraid something ‘beastly’ would happen to the lads if they went to North Koeea.
J.S. Seriously like, is this a Pantomine or what?
R.W. Yeah, but its no ordinary Panto, it’s a Fine Gae..ity Panto.!
J.S. Okay, enough, what exactly has Rocket Ross, the Minister for Transport done in relation to the Rail dispute, is Transport not his bailiwick?
B.D. Eh, not a whole lot really, well apart from expressing disappointment, oh and suggesting that both sides should go back to the talks.
J.S. Is that not reasonable?
R.W. It most certainly is, though with one noteworthy caveat, HE is the MINISTER, he Needs to ALLOW/ ENABLE Irish Rail to NEGOTIATE.
J.S. Can you explain?
R.W The Minister of the day, in this case, ‘ROSS the BOSS ‘is the sole Shareholder of Irish Rail, the Company’s Management would need his permission, or at least that of his Department to come back to the Negotiating table with a credible offer for Rail Workers.
J.S. So, what about the Department?
R.W. Exactly, what about them indeed, not a Dickie Bird from the Mandarins, oh how the Peoples Champion used to wax lyrical about them Boyo’s when he had the freedom to rant across the SINDO when he was a populist scribbler. This is where the real power lies, they tell the Minister what to do, what to say, it’s a case of: Minister jump- Minister asks: How high?
J.S. Anyone one else I should know about?
R.W. The National Transport Authority (NTA).
J.S. Who are they?
R.W. They are the Body charged with Regulating and Funding Public Transport in Ireland. The HSE ON WHEELS.
J.S. Thought that was CIE?
R.W So did CIE..!
J.S. Seriously, what does this NTA gang really do?
R.W. It’s effectively in charge of Bus, Train, Taxi, Bicycle and whatever you’re having yourself Transport for Ireland.
J.S. Okay, surely they can help with this Dispute?
R.W. You would have thought so, but quite the opposite in fact, the Contract it has with Irish Rail restricts the Company’s ability to increase pay.
J.S. That’s a bit vague, can you explain?
R.W. The NTA give a Contract for Rail Services (Bus Services the same) to Irish Rail, this Contract allows (?) the Company to make a ‘reasonable profit’ of €3.5m, the Contract has little or no provision for Wage Increases.
J.S. Hold it, I thought you said they were the Regulation and Funding Body for Public Transport, would it not be the interest of this NTA crowd to ensure that Public Transport actually operate? And what’s this about Contracts?
R.W. Now, apologies in advance for this, but here is my best shot, you see the NTA awarded Irish Rail a Public Service Obligation Contract to Run Rail Services across Ireland.
J.S. They gave them what?
R.W. Irish Rail Routes are not profitable, they are effectively loss making, so the State has to step in and help to provide a Service for the Community, this is called Subvention, necessary of course to help run Trains.
J.S. Ok, let’s just say I understand that piece (!), what in the name of Thomas the Tank Engine is going on here?
I’m being told on one hand that the public funding of Irish Rail is necessary in order to provide necessary, but unprofitable Rail Services, on the other hand I’m told by you the Workers, in a leaflet I saw last week, that this funding (Subvention) has been cut by over €70m since 2008.
Just so I have this straight now, not alone was over €70m taken from the funding, but if Irish Rail gains more passengers and revenue, than its restricted to a Profit of €3.5m, so what happens to any extra money the Company takes s in revenue?
R.W. Irish Rail spends it on Track Replacement/Renewal, Heavy Maintienence on Fleet etc. The money for these usually comes from the State in the form of Capital Funding, but the Company divert it to these projects, a case of ‘use it or lose it’ in other words, if there’s a danger that the operating profit could exceed the €3.5m then Irish Rail transfer this money over to areas that the State should be funding anyway.!
J.S. Christ, this is getting complicated, I’ll be ‘pissed’ before I get to understand this saga, anymore you want to tell me about the NTA crowd?
R.W. Well yes, the NTA will be taking approximately €300,000 a day from Irish Rail for every day there is a stoppage.
J.S. Sorry, but this is mind boggling, you have previously told me that ye lot didn’t get a Pay Rise since 2008, have suffered two cost saving programmes and taken pay cuts, the Government has reduced much needed funding by over €70m and this NTA crowd are going to take a significant Wad of cash from Irish Rail?
R.W. Yes, but that’s not nearly the full story, the spokesperson for Irish rail keeps saying the Company has legacy debt of €160m.
J.S. I’m going to be sorry I asked this now, this fella Karry Benny, what’s he on about? Isn’t legacy something left behind by some historical figures or sports stars?
R.W. well, on this occasion the word legacy is being used to describe the debt that has built up over the last ten years at Irish rail
J.S. Stall the ball will ya, did I not see an article in one of the papers recently, which said that this NTA crowd had told the Minister that he should give Irish Rail €125m in compensation because successive Governments had underfunded the Company since 2008? Would this not deal with Enda Kenny’s legacy thingy?
R.W. his name is Barry, not Enda, but yes, the recommendation from the NTA to compensate Irish Rail would coach a horse and four, or should I say a train through that argument alright.
J.S. This NTA shower are sure full of contradictions alright:
· They Give Irish Rail a Contract that only allows modest profit
· This Contract has little or no provision for pay improvements
· They write a Report saying the Company should be compensated for years of Govt underfunding
· They then take money from the Company in fines, because your gang go on Strike,
And part of the reason ye’re on strike in the first place is because???? There is no fu~~in provision for pay improvements in the Contract they, the NTA awarded Irish Rail, seriously, you couldn’t make this sh~t up…..
R.W. You sure could not, To add insult to injury the NTA are spending millions of taxpayers’ money on consultants and advisors…
it’s a case of the:
NTA; All the AUTHORITY but NO RESPONSIBILTY
J.S. I’m getting a headache with all this stuff, what about the point being made about ye and the company going back to the Labour Court ?
R.W. oh don’t go there, the unions have been at the Workplace Relations Commission on at least eight occasions and at the Labour Court twice.
J.S. What happened?
R.W. the Labour Court said that we should go back to the WRC and explore all matters which might have the potential to contribute to a resolution of this dispute.
R.W. You would think so, but the problem was that the lads (unions) were at the WRC on the 19th of October and the talks broke down after 12 hours.
J.S. 12 hours, what in the name of feck kept them that long, sur the media said the offer was only 1.75%, did it take 12 hours for that?
R.W. Nope, the union lads said that a proposal that they would have been obliged to bring back to us for ballot, was being worked on, but the CEO, supported we’re told by the Mandarians at the Department of Transport, pulled it at the last minute. The lads said it was around 2.5% for year, then talk for a few months on issues like putting more:
Customer service Staff on train’s, Attendence Programme, Vehicle management system (Irish Rail has big fleet of cars/vans), etc.
J.S. Any problems with this?
R.W. Well, not sure if 2.5% would crack it, the stuff they want to talk about would need to be discussed directly with the Staff involved, bit Union lads say no problem with talking about them, once the lads involved were agreeable, But the talk is that a one year deal might not do now, lads said the carry-on of the CEO has further eroded the little bit of trust that was left, so it might be that a Three Year deal like Dublin Bus will be required.
JS. CEO? Is that this David ‘Fish’ Tanks geezer, the guy that is alleged to have spent anything between €20000 and €60000 on a fishing junket up in Enniskillen with his buddies from the UK? What’s his agenda, did he come from UK rail himself?
R.W. Not sure of his agenda to be honest, he did come from UK railway background alright.
J.S. What’s the story over there? Is that place not a mess after privatisation? Aren’t the fares through the roof over there? Sur, I was just reading recently about strikes on the trains over there, down South I think, over Guards being taken off trains and asking Train Drivers to close automatic doors?
Did I also read some time back that the UK Government took back ownership of the Train Track a number of years ago?
R.W. for a fella who professed not to know much about this dispute, you are well informed, first of all:
▪yes the UK rail system is privatised,
▪yes the fares are exhorbraint.
▪Yes there is a Strike over there.
▪Incidentally, the Train Drivers over here have been closing train doors for years.
▪The One Person Operation, (Guards gone since 2006) has been in place since 2000
▪Yes the Track infrastructure was Re-nationalised.
But this is the type of system that some commentators are calling for over here. Suit the Privateers in the Blue Shirts of course.
J.S. I think I’ve had enough for one evening. Last question before I go, how is this going to be sorted?
R.W. If only I knew, all I know is that the Luas and Dublin Bus got sorted, though it did take over eighteen days of stoppages between both groups of workers, twelve in Luas and six in Dublin Bus.
J.S. Your not seriously suggesting that this is going to last that long are you? Was in the papers last week about Strikes over Christmas, this going to happen?
R.W. Hopefully not, that would be the Nuclear (Kim Jong-un) option, but then again, us Workers are determined to stand firm,
The pity is that our loyal customers and those of us that work in Irish Rail are the ones that are paying the price here.
J.S. I’m outa here, anything we as tax payers can do to help here?
R.W. Not a whole lot really, you’re a bit like us on the picket line: Love to be able to sort this mess, but we have no direct influence, tell you what, here’s the email addresses of those who can perhaps make a difference, after all those in Charge: Minister, Department of Transport the NTA, etc always get away scot free.