Tuesday 23 January 2018

Donohoe's travel plans in doubt over Luas strike

Paschal Donohoe: travel plan. Photo: Arthur Carron
Paschal Donohoe: travel plan. Photo: Arthur Carron

Wayne O'Connor and Niall O'Connor

Luas operators Transdev and trade union Siptu will meet at the Workplace Relations Commission today in a last ditch attempt to prevent the planned St Patrick's Day strike by tram drivers. It comes as Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe is considering whether to alter his St Patrick's Day trip this week if the Luas strike goes ahead as planned.

Mr Donohoe is due to travel to Madrid on Wednesday - 24 hours before the planned strike.

While a spokeswoman for Mr Donohoe said his travel plans remain in place, it is understood this may change if the strike proceeds.

Siptu last night said it was not concerned about the minister's travel arrangements, but called on him to ask Transdev to engage in discussions with drivers.

Siptu divisional organiser Owen Reidy said further industrial action was avoidable.

"It is not about if the minister cancels his trip. What it is really about is coming out and telling Transdev that because they have a state contract there is an onus on them to come out and talk to their staff.

"Any further industrial action, including St Patrick's Day, is entirely avoidable. It needs people to sit down and talk but we do not have a willing partner on the other side."

Transdev said it was looking forward to engaging in the talks. However, it said private buses have been ordered as a contingency measure to collect passengers from park and ride Luas stops and bring them to the city centre during Thursday's strike.

A spokesperson confirmed the buses will only link the park and ride stops on the red and green lines with the city centre and will not operate between other Luas stops.

Siptu described the contingency measure as "provocative".

"We think the company should be spending their time trying to reach a resolution with their staff rather than spending time, effort and money hiring buses," said Mr Reidy.

"That is not a satisfactory response or a way to ensure your customers have a proper service," he added.

Mr Donohoe yesterday said the special bus service planned to beat the strike action was an "exceptional fall-back measure for the country's national holiday".

He told RTÉ that he hopes normal Luas services will take place on Thursday.

Siptu said staff pickets will not interfere with the contingency bus services.

"We are obliged to picket in line with the law," said Mr Reidy.

"Our advice as always will be, and we have a duty to insure, that people abide by the letter of the law."

Strikes are planned for St Patrick's Day, when about a quarter of a million people are on the streets of the city centre taking part in festivities.

Further strike action is planned again for the Easter weekend - March 26-27 - and two further weekends, April 2-3 and April 23-24.

The Luas drivers are seeking pay rises of 27pc over five years, down from their initial demand of a 53pc pay rise. They have also offered to discuss productivity measures with management.

However, Transdev said the reduced pay claim by drivers was still excessive and does not form the basis of negotiations. It said it will consider wage increases of 1-3pc.

Irish Independent

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