Minister: No plan to halt strike by Luas workers
Minister criticised for inaction on dispute that will hit 180,000
Published 18/02/2016 | 02:30
Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe has no plans to intervene in the latest Luas strike that is set to cause travel chaos for up to 180,000 commuters today and tomorrow.
A second highly disruptive work stoppage brings the light rail network's Green and Red lines to a standstill for 48 hours from this morning.
But the minister came under fire for inviting people to "get their dancing shoes on" for St Patrick's Day - a date when travellers will face more strike action.
Mr Donohoe is under increasing pressure to try to end the deadlock in a dispute over pay rises and working conditions that could leave tourists stranded on the day of the national festival.
There is still no sign of an invitation from the State mediation body, the Workplace Relations Commission, to try to halt the industrial action.
This is unlikely unless the commission can see a basis for an agreement, with either the employer moving from its offer of a pay rise of between 1pc to 3pc, or SIPTU reducing its claim for pay hikes of between 8.5pc and 53.8pc for more than 200 workers.
Mediation sources said it is up to the minister to "bang heads together" behind the scenes and get Luas operator, Transdev, and the union back to the table to hammer out a resolution.
But when asked if he would intervene, the minister said the Government has a "whole array of organisations" to assist.
"We have the Workplace Relations Commission, we have the Labour Court, all of whom have been involved in this issue now for nearly 18 months," he said.
"They stand ready to intervene but they're only going to intervene if there's willingness on all sides to come to the table on a reasonable basis and put together a platform for resolving this dispute, because this dispute as it's currently scheduled is resulting in everybody being a loser."
Fianna Fáil Dublin City Council member Jim O'Callaghan asked where were the "urgent plea" or "back-channel communications" required to reach a resolution.
"Yesterday, we saw the minister doing a media event to invite people to get their dancing shoes on at the launch of the St Patrick's Day festival," he said.
"Does he not realise that there will be a cloud over this year's celebrations as St Patrick's Day is set for further Luas work stoppages resulting in more disruption on our national holiday for tourists and commuters?"
Meanwhile, it was revealed that the Luas drivers' pay exceeds pay rates at many major tramlines in the UK and Europe.
Data compiled by the Irish Independent shows their pay is almost twice as high as a Blackpool tram driver's wages, and nearly €10,000 higher than a CIE bus driver's pay at the top end of the scale.
Transdev said it cannot afford the pay claim but is prepared to consider a claim in the region of 1pc to 3pc, similar to what is being paid in other sectors.
It had losses of €700,000 last year and cannot benefit from a hike in fares, as it pays these to the State and gets a flat rate of €100,000 a day to run the service.
In a letter to staff on Tuesday, Luas managing director Gerry Madden warned them they face the loss of four days' pay in this month's payroll.
He said they needed to be aware of the serious consequences if the dispute escalates.
"Our customers are facing serious disruption and confidence in the system is being eroded," he said.
"The additional days of action will seriously impact business and the tourist sector. The action will impact on the thousands of families who use Luas to travel into and out of the St Patrick's Day parade, and not just the parade but all the events in the city associated with the festival."
He said the reaction of the public to the dispute had been "overwhelmingly negative".
"And whenever we resolve this dispute, we will have a serious job of work to do to restore their confidence," he added.
Normal service will resume at 6.30am on Saturday.
Two 24-hour strikes are planned on Tuesday, March 8, and St Patrick's Day.