Wednesday 28 September 2016

Threat of Luas strike every two weeks in pay row

Published 19/02/2016 | 02:30

Luas workers have threatened to withdraw services every two weeks until a dispute over pay and conditions is settled. Photo: Caroline Quinn
Luas workers have threatened to withdraw services every two weeks until a dispute over pay and conditions is settled. Photo: Caroline Quinn

Striking Luas workers have threatened to withdraw services every two weeks until a dispute over pay and conditions is settled. Some 90,000 commuters will be forced to find alternative ways of travelling to work today as the row continues.

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Both sides remain at loggerheads, with no prospect of talks to end the impasse, which has already led to four days of strike action.

But pressure to open negotiations has intensified after Siptu warned of further days of industrial unrest unless management agrees to meaningful talks over pay and demands for improved terms and conditions.

Strikes are already planned for Tuesday, March 8 and St Patrick's Day, March 17, and there are concerns they could run into the Easter holidays.

"We're getting more and more intractable," Siptu divisional organiser Owen Reidy said. "We have to give 21 days' notice and I think you're looking at a situation where, unless we get to a place where we will see some resolution, you will see more dates.

"I don't want to speculate, but my sense is that more dates will be announced every two weeks unless there's a resolution.

"You're going to see a pattern of rolling industrial action every two weeks.

"We're happy to talk to the company but they have to move away from hikes of 3pc linked to productivity. We're not going to call off any action until there is a resolution."

Read more: Luas strike to hit St Patrick's Day festival crowds

Workers, who have already lost pay and annual bonuses worth as much as €3,000 for drivers, are seeking pay increases ranging from 8.5pc to 53.8pc for more than 200 staff, paid over five years.

Management has offered increases of between 1pc and 3pc, linked to productivity.

Staff are also seeking a free GP service for drivers, an increase in the annual bonus from 6.5pc to 10pc, higher rates of sick pay and an increase in annual leave, among other demands.

But the company has said it is losing money and cannot afford to pay the claims, which would cost €19m over the five years.

The strike has caused misery for commuters who are being forced to make alternative travel arrangements. Traffic ground to a slow crawl on the Dublin quays yesterday morning, with AA Roadwatch saying that the roads were busier than normal.

While Dublin Bus is operating a full range of services, it is not accepting Luas tickets

Transdev managing director Gerry Madden insisted that Luas drivers were at the top of the scale in terms of payment and benefits, compared with staff in other transport operators.

"Against almost every measure in the transport sector in Ireland, we are the Rolls Royce," he told Newstalk's 'Pat Kenny Show'. "We are paying not just reasonable (rates) but over the top compared to the others."

Last year, despite losses, the company paid around €550,000 in bonuses for staff "because it's the right thing to do", he said.

There will be no payment this year due to the strike action.

Transdev is urging the union to reduce its claim. The company has offered to open discussions based on pay increases of 1pc to 3pc.

Irish Independent

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