Luas hit by delays due to big rise in toilet breaks
Luas passengers have been hit by delays due to an escalation in work-to-rule action after a sudden, marked upsurge in drivers' toilet breaks.
Transdev, which operates the tram system, has warned that it may sack workers after a steep hike in 'personal needs breaks' since last week.
It has written to Siptu, warning the union that it will seek legal advice with a view to "recovering any financial penalties" it suffers as a result of lost services.
The company warned that any staff member who delays the service "will be liable to disciplinary action up to and including dismissal".
The letter, sent to Siptu assistant industrial organiser John Murphy, says that last Wednesday 16 breaks were taken.
There were 26 on Saturday, when there was a concert in the 3Arena, and 18 on Sunday.
In total, 60 toilet breaks were taken over the three days, which resulted in "significant delays" to the tram system. This "consequently caused serious disruption to members of the travelling public".
The 60 toilet breaks in three days compares with just 22 taken in over a month between January 1 and February 5. The letter from Transdev to Siptu says that there has never been a day historically where these levels of toilet breaks were needed.
The ramped-up action comes as Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe warned that further strikes at the Luas would "wreck" the light rail service.
Mr Donohoe also warned that everyone who attends last-ditch talks to resolve the dispute over pay rises "has to have realistic expectations".
Talks starting tomorrow follow two highly disruptive 48-hour strikes that brought services on both the red and green lines to a halt.
Without an agreement, the highly disruptive industrial action that has hit up to 90,000 commuters a day will escalate to another strike on March 8, followed by a further 24-hour stoppage on St Patrick's Day.
Staff have demanded pay rises ranging from 8.5pc to 53.8pc and big improvements in working conditions, including free GP care and better-paid overtime.
Transdev will consider wage increases of only between 1pc and 3pc.
Mr Donohoe said it was imperative that talks to avert the looming strikes take place on a realistic basis.
"Everybody has to have realistic expectations and demands as they go into the negotiations because continuation of these strikes will wreck the Luas," he said.
"It will cause huge damage to our city, the commuters and to the Luas itself and it is in everybody's interest now that discussions begin this week."
The minister noted that staff had already sacrificed a bonus payment worth up to €3,000 each because they went on strike.
This is a penalty outlined in their collective agreement with their employer.