Sunday 25 September 2016

Bitter spat turns personal as threat of all-out strike now on cards

Anne-Marie Walsh

Published 02/04/2016 | 02:30

Another Luas strike is due this weekend. Photo: Caroline Quinn
Another Luas strike is due this weekend. Photo: Caroline Quinn
Kieran Mulvey. Photo: Tom Burke

The threat of an all-out Luas strike is looming after the row over pay deepened when Siptu called for the resignation of the State's chief mediator.

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Passengers must endure another strike this weekend as there appears to be no end in sight to the disruptive row.

Siptu general president Jack O'Connor yesterday accused the director general of the Workplace Relations Commission, Kieran Mulvey, of bias against unions and said his union would not deal with it while he was at the helm. He said it was not credible for someone in his position to "attack" one of the parties to an industrial dispute.

As the bitter dispute took a personal twist, Mr O'Connor said: "Someone who is paid the amount of money that Kieran Mulvey is paid by the taxpayer doesn't have an entitlement to indulge himself in the way he did."

He was responding after Mr Mulvey said most union officials would have received a standing ovation if they had brought back the pay proposals to their members that were brokered at the commission.

It is understood that Mr Mulvey's comments were made in a bid to get the union and Transdev to refer the issues that could end the dispute to the Labour Court.

Workers have overwhelmingly rejected the proposals for pay rises between 8pc and 18pc in up to five years in a ballot.

Mr Mulvey said he had no intention of resigning, and he was acting purely in the public interest by commenting - as he has done in a number of disputes.

"It's affecting 90,000 people every time there's a stoppage," he said. "What I was indicating to everyone who wanted to listen, was that there wasn't much more to be done in this dispute.

"The parties need to convey to us what is wrong at the moment. I also did say, on both sides, we need leadership."

He also responded to a claim by Mr O'Connor that he had intervened prematurely in the dispute. Mr Mulvey said he had intervened following requests from Siptu, Transdev, and acting Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe.

Mr Mulvey said he was unaware of any initiative by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, headed by Patricia King, to resolve the dispute as Mr O'Connor had mentioned.

The leader of the National Bus and Railworkers' Union, Dermot O'Leary, said Mr Mulvey should not resign.

"Without wishing to get involved in the minutiae of the Luas dispute, I would say that if Kieran Mulvey was to resign for making critical comments about employer or employee representatives, his 26-year tenure as chief of the commission since its inception in 1990 would have been considerably shorter," said Mr O'Leary.

However, the Anti-Austerity Alliance backed Siptu's stance.

Fianna Fáil spokesman on Transport, Timmy Dooley, has called for a special taskforce with members from the Government, Ibec and Ictu, similar to a body that intervened in a dispute at Dublin Bus three years ago.

Transport Minister Mr Donohoe has not ruled out setting up a special body to resolve the dispute - but said it would have to be signed off by the Workplace Relations Commission.

Irish Independent

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