Unions at Iarnród Éireann have warned of industrial action if train drivers do not secure improvements in their terms and conditions  - including a shorter working week.

The joint statement issued by the National Bus and Rail Union and SIPTU comes as Iarnród Éireann management and unions are due to begin three days of intensive negotiations at the Workplace Relations Commission tomorrow.

The dispute centres on the drivers' demands for payment for productivity, which they say has already been conceded.

In addition they are seeking a shorter working week in line with their counterparts in the UK.

Central to the talks will be a report commissioned by the Labour Court to examine the issues in dispute.

In the joint statement, NBRU General Secretary Dermot O'Leary and Assistant Organiser of SIPTU's Utilities and Construction Division Paul Cullen said that after ten years of protracted negotiations, it had taken a work stoppage last autumn for their members' concerns to be recognised.

They said the independent Labour Court report had thrown up some challenges for train drivers - not least the necessity to reach a similar level of working hours to their UK counterparts. 

They said their members were prepared to discuss the broad agenda set out in the report with a view to embracing some of the changes which may be necessary to effect what they called long overdue improvements for train drivers.

However, the union officials warned that it was imperative that the company reciprocate by facilitating the reduction in the working week in the drivers' terms and conditions. 

They concluded by saying that failure to do so would inevitably result in their members having to resort to engaging in industrial action.

Iarnród Éireann noted that the Labour Court report had concluded that much of what was claimed as past productivity either did not constitute productivity or had been addressed by previous agreements.

It said the Labour Court recommendation did provide for the outcomes to be reviewed at the WRC.

The company also notes that the report itself states that further study is required in some areas including comparative conditions for any conclusions to be drawn.  

The company concludes by saying that it is imperative that issues surrounding co-operation with driver training are addressed and resolved.