Wednesday 22 May 2019

Luas strikes will hit visitors during centenary of 1916

Commuters are facing travel chaos. Photo: Caroline Quinn
Commuters are facing travel chaos. Photo: Caroline Quinn

Anne-Marie Walsh

More than 180,000 Luas passengers face travel chaos during the Easter 1916 centenary commemorations after drivers served notice of another 48-hour strike.

Siptu has sanctioned a work stoppage on Easter Sunday and Monday in pursuit of pay rises up to 54pc and better terms and conditions. A 24-hour strike is already planned next Tuesday and another on St Patrick's Day.

The stoppages will leave thousands of visitors stranded during events to mark the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Rising, when Dublin city centre will already be subject to car restrictions within the bounds of the canals.

Luas operator Transdev said the strike notice "shows a total disrespect to all those who wish to mark the 1916 commemorations".

It said it was "extremely disappointed" with the union and drivers.

Transdev said the union had deliberately chosen to stop the Luas on key dates, following earlier 48-hour stoppages on February 11 and 12 and February 18 and 19.

And sources last night revealed there was little likelihood of the Workplace Relations Commission intervening to hold fresh talks.

Negotiations had been planned last week but were called off before they began after Transdev objected to discussions while a work-to-rule and "unofficial action" were taking place. It said drivers were engaged in unofficial action by taking an unprecedented number of toilet breaks.

Managing director Gerry Madden said Siptu was not just threatening the company with unrealistic pay claims, but was now prepared to jeopardise the Irish economy and Irish jobs. "The State has made great plans for the centenary of 1916 and transport is a vital part of those plans," he added.

Siptu official Willie Noone said drivers felt they had no option but to serve notice of further strikes.

He confirmed the drivers had served notice of stoppages at Easter as they had to give 21 days' notice of industrial action under their collective agreement with their employer.

"If they went into talks today and they broke down after two or three weeks because there was no progress, they would have to give another 21 days' notice," he said. "They have consistently said they will take action every seven to 10 days."

However, he claimed staff had been willing to call off next Tuesday's strike if talks had gone ahead, to allow "sufficient space" for negotiations to succeed.

Meanwhile, DART drivers, represented by Siptu, have backed strike action if Irish Rail forges ahead with plans to introduce services every 10 minutes from April 10.

Siptu's Paul Cullen, said members see the introduction of a 10-minute DART service as an issue which should be part of discussions on increasing productivity.

"Our members are deeply disappointed that the management of Irish Rail seems intent on provoking further conflict with workers.

"Introducing these rosters in April, as management is threatening, would be seen by our members as a deeply unfortunate and provocative move," he said.

The escalated actions were announced as the National Transport Authority launched a new Leap Family Card, giving families of four a €10 discount fare for 24 hours unlimited travel in and around the capital on all trains, bus and Luas service, particularly over the 1916 commemorations.

Irish Independent

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