St Patrick's Day Luas strike talks on last legs
Eleventh-hour talks will take place between Luas operators Transdev and drivers' unions today in a bid to avert a disruptive strike planned for St Patrick's Day.
Following an appeal by Kieran Mulvey, director general of the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC), Transdev last night agreed to reverse plans to provide a bus service for Luas passengers on the national holiday.
Mr Mulvey said that, "in order to create a climate of positivity" for the talks, he had asked the company to defer its bus plans. Drivers' unions had accused the company of engaging in strikebreaking, a claim which was denied by Transdev's boss Gerry Madden.
Talks had resumed yesterday to reach agreement on the issues of pay rises and better working conditions with the rest of staff, other than drivers, at the tram service.
However, Transdev had refused to engage with the drivers after they dropped their initial pay claim of 54pc over three years to 27pc over five years, saying it was still too high.
Mr Madden called on drivers to "modify it properly" and said he would only entertain increases in the region of 1pc-3pc.
It is understood that ticket inspectors, their supervisors, and control room staff have moved towards a 4pc pay rise.
In a statement issued last night following Mr Mulvey's intervention, Mr Madden said: "Transdev is in resolution mode and is happy to go to talks tomorrow in the WRC and engage in meaningful discussions."
Last night, Siptu divisional organiser Owen Reidy welcomed Transdev's decision to call off the bus service plan.
"It is something we've been calling for all week, and we think it will create the space for us to go in...and have unconditional discussions and make progress." Asked about the possibility of the strike being called off, Mr Reidy said it was "too early to say".
"I would have preferred if Transdev had done this a few days ago but it's done now. We've still got 48 hours and we're going to do all we can to bridge the gap."
Public opinion appears to be against the drivers, after 79pc of respondents to an Amarách Research poll for the 'Claire Byrne Live' programme on RTÉ said they did not support the St Patrick's Day strike, compared with just 13pc who did.
Meanwhile, the threat of strikes hitting 60,000 Dart customers is also looming, unless talks to end a row over a more frequent service reach a resolution. Irish Rail attended talks with the NBRU and Siptu, who are opposing the new service. It said the contentious new 10-minute service will mean more jobs for drivers. However, the unions said there are not enough drivers trained to run the service.