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Iarnród Éireann: Labour Relations Commission talks Collapse

4 December 2013

No agreement has been reached after extensive talks between the trade unions and the company under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission (LRC). These talks were a result of the member’s rejection in the ballot of the LRC Lansdowne House proposals on Pay and Productivity measures in late July of this year.

Following the rejection of the LRC proposals on pay and productivity we were invited for a hearing of the Labour Court for August 2013. In view of the ongoing disputes in Bus Eireann and Dublin Bus at the time the labour court hearing was differed to allow talks to continue at the LRC with a view of reaching an agreement going forward. TSSA along with the other trade unions began meetings with the company at the LRC September 2013. The initial meeting explored what the reasons for the rejection of the proposals on Pay and Productivity measures were and to explore the possibility of further talks to try and resolve the impasse. Talks intensified and we have now concluded a round of 12 days of meetings over the last few weeks. From the beginning the TSSA put forward that our members rejected the Lansdowne House proposals as they would lead to the erosion of the terms and conditions of our members in Iarnród Éireann to a severe detriment financially and that our members had a lack of trust and confidence in the company. Our member’s rejection of the Labour Relations commission proposals identified a fundamental issue of trust and loss of confidence. We explained to the commission that our member’s lack of trust is based on the company seeking another cost containment agreement so soon after the cost containment 1 was agreed and also by the size of the financial deterioration in such a short period of time. Our members voted to accept cost containment 1 on the understanding that the company would not come back looking for further cost recovery measures until 2016. This has led to our member’s perception now being that if they agree to this new proposal that they will again be targeted well before the agreement is set to expire. The issue of trust was further exasperated by the unilateral change to VS terms and conditions. Our members now face less favourable treatment than those that availed of the VS package before these changes were unilaterally imposed. This change was implemented without consultation, negotiation or agreement from any of the trade unions. It is our view that this is a clear breach of the agreement we had in cost containment 1. We further stated that our view was that no progress could be made at the LRC without the issue of the unilateral change to VS terms and conditions being dealt with first. This issue is significant as it clearly demonstrates one of the reasons why members have a fundamental issue of loss of trust and confidence in the company. If we allow agreements to be just disregarded in this way were does it stop? Throughout this process we reiterated that since 2002 our members have contributed significantly to cost savings at Iarnród Éireann through substantial productivity increases which has seen the reduction in staff numbers while train services have increased in the same period. Further our members have contributed to savings by being on a pay freeze since 2008 and the acceptance of the cost containment 1 agreement in June 2012 which has had a diminishing impact on our members take home pay. The latest rounds of talks started with the first 4 days attempting to deal with the VS issue with no success. It was decided to park the VS issue to continue discussions on other issues such as pay & productivity measures and 29(b). Although discussion on these issues was more positive no agreement was reached on a final proposal. A significant stumbling block has been the refusal of Iarnród Éireann to move on the issue of VS. The significance of VS is that we see it as a fundamental breach of the agreement we have around VS in cost containment 1 and it clearly demonstrates one of the reasons why members have a fundamental issue of loss of trust and confidence in the company. TSSA entered into talks to explore the possibility of finding alternative ways of achieving savings that were both fair and reasonable sadly this has not been the case. As a union we are always prepared to engage constructively, however we will not be bullied or coerced. We are concerned that the company may now look to attempt to fundamentally your terms and conditions without agreement. This is unacceptable and goes against established industrial relations practices within Iarnród Éireann. As a union we will need to act collectively to resist any attempts to impose any changes to your terms and conditions without your agreement. The company did invite unions to avail of the opportunity to investigate the financial books; we are currently in the process of arranging an independent financial expert to do that on our behalf. As always TSSA has indicated that it is willing to engage in dialogue to resolve any issues.

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