Sunday 11 December 2016

Commuter chaos: Transport Minister calls for last-minute talks to halt Luas strike

Anne-Marie Walsh

Published 10/02/2016 | 02:30

More than 240 workers at the light rail network, including drivers, ticket inspectors and control office staff, want better pay and conditions. Photo: Caroline Quinn
More than 240 workers at the light rail network, including drivers, ticket inspectors and control office staff, want better pay and conditions. Photo: Caroline Quinn

The Transport Minister has called on unions and management to sit down again in a last-minute bid to halt this week's Luas industrial strike action.

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Minister Paschal Donohoe asked for both sides in the industrial dispute to re-engage through the Labour Court to avert the work stoppage planned for this Thursday and Friday.

Around 90,000 commuters are expected to face chaos tomorrow as Luas drivers plan to bring the tram service to a halt for the first time in its history.

The drivers are seeking a pay rise that would push their wages to more than €9,000 higher than a train driver's.

Minister Donohoe said those who regularly rely on the Luas will be 'massively inconvenienced'.

“If this action goes ahead as planned significant disruption will be caused to those who have come to depend on Luas to get to work and about their daily business," he said this morning.

 “There have already been a number of attempts made to resolve this dispute through the Labour Court and the Workplace Relations Commission, which are the channels through which mediation and resolution are found.

"Strike action does not serve the company, the staff or service users well.

"I am asking unions and management to re-engage in discussions on the basis of reasonable negotiations so that strike action can be avoided and Luas can continue to serve commuters across our city in the weeks to come.”

Meanwhile, figures obtained by the Irish Independent reveal that staff demands go far beyond seeking equal pay with their colleagues in Irish Rail.

Staff, who have begun a work-to-rule, are set to cause travel chaos during a 48-hour strike from 4am tomorrow morning. This will be followed by another 48-hour strike tomorrow week.

Sources in other unions have privately described the claim - which ranges from 8pc to 54pc - as "lunacy". One union said drivers' wages were not far off Irish Rail drivers' pay already, while wage claims in other sectors range from 3pc to 5pc.

More than 240 workers at the light rail network, including drivers, ticket inspectors and control office staff, want better pay and conditions.

Their demands include free GP care, and increases in bonus and overtime rates.

Currently, the Luas drivers' pay ranges from €35,901 for a 39-hour week in year one to €42,247, when they are there for nine years.

Irish Rail drivers' 10-year pay scale ranges from €43,717 to €55,239 for a 43-hour week.

But the Siptu document detailing the claim reveals the drivers want to earn from €41,895 to €64,993 by January next year.

The desired €64,993 wage is €9,754 higher than the top end of the Irish Rail pay scale.

The National Bus and Railworkers Union has claimed that Luas drivers' existing wages are already not far behind Irish Rail staff.

It has calculated that Luas drivers' hourly pay is €20.83, with a bonus, compared with €22.04 at Irish Rail, with no bonus. But SIPTU says its members believe they are underpaid, particularly when compared with workers in Irish Rail.

Stall

Union official Willie Noone said their claim was a "maximum stall" and the drivers did not expect to achieve it.

He said the claim could potentially cover the five years of the Luas contract and takes account of potential pay rises at Irish Rail. He said that his members were willing to negotiate but the company was not willing to offer any kind of pay increase.

Mr Noone accused Transdev of "demonising" the drivers by releasing details of their claim without saying what conditions it would negotiate on.

Irish Independent

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