Commuter chaos in Cork as first rail strike hits

Commuter chaos in Cork as first rail strike hits
Irish Rail workers on picket line duty at Kent Station, Cork. Picture Dan Linehan

THOUSANDS of commuters were forced to find alternative arrangements as rail workers began the first of five national 24-hour strikes.

All services were cancelled from midnight as staff at Irish Rail commenced industrial action over a dispute over pay.

Pickets at Cork stations saw the cancellation of services to and from Cobh, Midleton, Little Island, Mallow and the city centre, as well as intercity travel to Dublin and the rest of the country.

Union officials in Cork have squarely pointed the finger at the Government, claiming that the lack of investment in the rail sector over the last decade is the cause of today’s nationwide strike.

Staff are seeking a 3.75% flat rate pay increase, claiming that they have not received a cost-of-living increase in almost ten years. Irish Rail said it simply cannot afford the increase.

The stoppage is expected to disrupt travel plans for 155,000 people nationally, costing Irish Rail €900,000 per day.

Trains stay in place as Irish Rail staff go on picket line duty at Kent Station in Cork. Picture Dan Linehan
Trains stay in place as Irish Rail staff go on picket line duty at Kent Station in Cork. Picture Dan Linehan

Further strikes are planned in the coming weeks, coinciding with Ireland’s World Cup play-off against Denmark in Dublin and the traditional Christmas shopping day on December 8.

If the dispute is not resolved with five stoppages, unions are not ruling out an escalation in the run-up to Christmas.

John Moloney, president of the National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) said staff have been left with no choice. Mr Moloney said, “The problem here is the continuing lack of investment from the Government. Ultimately, there should be a lot of focus on Minister Shane Ross, the National Transport Authority and the Government for pursuing a policy of radically underfunding the railway network.”

The transport minister has to intervene in the strike, he added.

Mr Moloney said he does not expect a quick resolution as talks at the Labour Court have already failed.

"The onus is on the Government. The Transport Minister has the control.

"People are concentrating heavily on the company and the trade unions but I would make the point that the underlying problem here is the continuing lack of investment from the Government," Mr Moloney said.

"The company will keep making the point that they are in a financial dilemma and there is x amount of millions that they haven't got and that is true.

"But ultimately there should be a lot of focus on Minister Shane Ross, the National Transport Authority and the Government for pursuing a policy of radically underfunding the railway network. That is ultimately what the problem is here."

Nobody around at Kent Station in Cork. Picture Dan Linehan
Nobody around at Kent Station in Cork. Picture Dan Linehan

Pickets were in place at Kent station, as well as Cobh and Mallow, resulting in an increase in traffic on the roads.

While extra inter-city buses have been put on to ease demand where possible, Mr Moloney said that he and his colleagues are in full support of the action taken by their union colleagues in Irish Rail.

"The bus drivers absolutely support the train drivers. For 10 years now, workers at Irish Rail have not had a cost of living pay increase. The company are trying to attach productivity elements to it that we don't agree are warranted.” 

Although the bus drivers are not formally involved, he said drivers in Cork will not pass picket lines while the strike is underway.

"Our colleagues are slow to go anywhere there is an official union picket so they don’t want to interact with the train station at all. That is invariably going to happen, they won’t pass union colleagues. People will have to go to the bus station rather than getting buses from Kent station."

More in this section

Sponsored Content