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Tuesday 6 December 2016

Luas staff 'hoping for fella on white horse' with better pay offer

Anne-Marie Walsh

Published 30/03/2016 | 02:30

SIPTU official Willie Noone said he warned Transdev managers in the past that the way they handled a dispute over improved pay and rest days about five years ago could 'come back to bite them'. Photo: Collins
SIPTU official Willie Noone said he warned Transdev managers in the past that the way they handled a dispute over improved pay and rest days about five years ago could 'come back to bite them'. Photo: Collins

Striking Luas workers are waiting for a UK boss on a "white horse" to make them a better pay offer, their union has claimed.

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Siptu official Willie Noone said tram operator Transdev previously improved a wage deal despite having consistently insisted it was a final proposal.

He was commenting as staff prepare to mount pickets for another 48-hour strike this weekend, following six previous work stoppages.

Industrial action is escalating after they rejected a pay package brokered at the Workplace Relations Commission.

They would have won pay rises between 8pc and 18pc within less than three years under the deal.

But Siptu said they do not believe they are getting enough to compensate them for longer working days of nine and a half hours on a new Luas extension, and object to lower pay rates for new recruits, who they feel are being used to fund the pay rise.

Mr Noone said he warned Transdev managers in the past that the way they handled a dispute over improved pay and rest days about five years ago could "come back to bite them".

He said staff at recent meetings on the new pay deal said they had "heard all this before" after the company said it was its final offer. Siptu had recommended the deal as the best that could be achieved at the Workplace Relations Commission.

Ballot

He also revealed that drivers have not decided whether to ballot for an all-out strike but could change their mind "at any time".

"I said to the company, you have a legacy issue due to the past dispute that is now coming back to bite you," he said. "It indicated before that it would give no more, and when everyone was holding the line, it capitulated.

"It had indicated there was no more there after strenuously holding its position for months following the intervention of an independent facilitator.

"Then the independent facilitator was made a mockery of when a senior manager of the UK/Irish operations came over and gave more. That's a difficulty they now have. Now people firmly believe the same thing might happen, and management will make a better offer. That's why it's so hard to find a resolution. They are waiting for the fella on the white horse."

During talks, drivers reduced their demand for pay rises up to 53.8pc by January next year to 27pc over five years, but Mr Noone refused to reveal what they would settle for. He said the deal as it stands requires more than just "tweaking" to be accepted.

He said the "ball is now in Transdev's court."

Transdev said it is still taking time to reflect as the union waits to see what its next move will be after its members ignored calls from Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe to call off strikes during the Easter 2016 centenary last weekend.

Next weekend, it is set to have lost roughly as much as its total losses for last year of €700,000 as the National Transport Authority withholds €100,000 for every day it fails to run a service.

However, sources said the company may make a case that it should no longer be "fined" in this way, as it has used the State's workplace bodies to the fullest extent possible to end the row.

Some sources said the future operation of the Luas is now in question, and suggested it could present the pay deal on a "take it or leave it" basis and lay off those who do not want to work for it.

Transdev said it is not planning to put on extra buses for passengers stranded during next weekend's strikes as it proposed for St Patrick's Day.

Irish Independent

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