Thursday, May 18, 2006

National Rail Strike

Unofficial strike, my arse!

Two Cork-based train drivers refused to take out new trains last Monday morning, triggering a supposedly unofficial strike that closed down much of the national rail network for 2 days.

Yet the first contribution from the SIPTU spokesman was to lay the blame on Iarnrod Eireann for the problem, saying that the union had warned the company that feelings were running high in Cork about the introduction of the new trains while certain unrelated matters were still under negotiation between the unions (SIPTU & NBRU) and the company.

The 2-day strike is estimated to have cost the company in excess of €1m and disrupted the travel plans of over 70,000 passengers. Yet there hasn’t been a word of criticism of the drivers action from the union representatives, despite the fact that many other non-rail workers were severely inconvenienced by the disruption.

There is a huge ongoing investment in public transport - both rail and bus. Not just in new track, rolling stock and buses, but also in the creation of Priority Bus Corridors in Dublin and other cities. The impact of these bus corridors is to severely reduce the road capacity for private motorists as existing traffic lanes are commandeered for exclusive bus use.

Is this investment strategy wise if no enforceable guarantees are available that the public will not be held to ransom by wildcat strikes which are blatantly tolerated, even if not formally approved, by their unions?

Strong disciplinary penalties, up to and including sacking, should be the fate of those who take unofficial but highly disruptive industrial action. The unions need to endorse this approach.

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