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Tuesday 28 March 2017

Luas operator refuses to reveal back-up plan as strike ballot looms

Dermot O’Leary of the National Bus and Railworkers’ Union. Pic: Frank McGrath
Dermot O’Leary of the National Bus and Railworkers’ Union. Pic: Frank McGrath

Anne-Marie Walsh

Luas operator Transdev has refused to reveal its back-up plan should two days of strikes go ahead over the Easter weekend.

The company caused union consternation when it announced it was hiring a special bus service to ferry passengers into the St Patrick's Day parade during a proposed strike. The NBRU accused it of "strike-breaking" and bringing in "scab labour".

But after that strike was averted, the company proposed a new deal that would put Luas staff in line for pay increases of more than 6pc a year, or up to 18pc in less than three years.

Company and union sources were pessimistic about staff backing the deal yesterday.

A spokesperson for Transdev insisted it was in "sales pitch mode" as it focused on getting the pay deal over the line in a ballot tomorrow and Thursday to halt further industrial action at the Luas.

Meanwhile, the threat of a strike at the Dart next month has deepened after unions refused to attend talks today on a new roster.

Siptu and the National Bus and Railworkers' Union (NBRU) said the dispute over more frequent services had been overtaken by the pay increases negotiated at the Luas, which they were now demanding for their members.

They will not engage with Irish Rail at the Workplace Relations Commission until it responds to their claim for an increase to match the Luas increase as well as the payment of 6pc due under an old social partnership agreement.

The Luas wage hike is at least double the average pay rise being given in other sectors and the NBRU has already lodged claims with Bus Éireann, Dublin Bus and Irish Rail for similar increases.

Siptu is recommending the deal to its members and is holding a meeting today with almost 250 workers, including 172 drivers. Drivers plan to mount Luas strikes on Easter Sunday and Monday.

Irish Rail said it regretted the decision of Siptu and the NBRU to withdraw from today's talks.

"It is notable that during the recession, when Dart frequency was reduced, roster and timetable changes were accepted without issue, but as we seek to restore Dart services in line with demand our trade unions refuse to engage with the company," said Irish Rail.

General secretary of the NBRU, Dermot O'Leary, said pay rises proposed to settle the Luas dispute would "inevitably result in setting this as a benchmark for pay in exchequer-subsidised public transport".

Irish Independent

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