Revoking sick pay of Luas drivers outrageous, says Siptu
Siptu has described the decision by Transdev to suspend Luas drivers' sick pay as "outrageous".
The tram operator announced that all drivers - except those who are critically ill or who can prove they are "genuinely sick" - will not be paid sick leave for the foreseeable future.
In a letter to Siptu, Transdev director Gerry Madden said that drivers' absentee rates had increased almost threefold from 4.5pc last year to 12pc this year.
He said this is "imposing significant additional costs on the company and is highly disruptive to our customers."
As a result, the company has invoked its right to "suspend individuals from the regular Sick Pay Scheme" under an agreement with the union that allows the company to withdraw sick pay from those employees whose absentee rate exceeds 4pc, he said.
A company spokesperson said "there's no doubt about it that sick leave has increased dramatically since the start of the industrial action."
She added that all Luas drivers, apart from those who can prove a medical issue, will not get sick pay until "absence rates return to normal".
Siptu organiser Willie Noone said that the company's decision to invoke the right to suspend sick pay has not only escalated the stand-off between the two sides in the long-running dispute, but claimed that it could also endanger lives if drivers are forced to work while sick.
"It's not surprising these people are going off sick due to stress," he told the Irish Independent.
"If an incident occurs because a driver is fatigued, it's on their [Transdev's] heads."
He also claimed the company is targeting the entire driver grade when the clause in the agreement was intended for any individual driver whose absentee rate exceeds 4pc in a year.
"If an individual is over-utilising it, we don't have a problem. But what they're doing is taking a whole category out and that's not in the spirit of the agreement," he added.
Mr Noone criticised the company's assertion that it will continue to judge each sickness claim on a case-by-case basis, which he claimed is entirely arbitrary.
Mr Noone said officials from the union have already contacted the Health and Safety Authority, the Commission for Railway Regulation and other bodies to express its concern over the withdrawal of sick pay as well as the number of hours a driver can work without a break.
Meanwhile, Siptu President Jack O'Connor warned that further industrial disputes may arise in public pay sectors unless the new Government engages in collective bargaining on the restoration of pay that was deducted during the recession.