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Saturday 17 February 2018

Hopes of end in sight in Luas strike action

Commuters heading into town on the Luas tracks near Ranelagh. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Commuters heading into town on the Luas tracks near Ranelagh. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Anne-Marie Walsh and Colm Kelpie

THERE is hope that the threat of further disruptive strikes at the Luas will be lifted as staff will be asked to halt industrial action at fresh talks.

The Director General of the Workplace Relations Commission has revealed he will invite SIPTU and Luas operator Transdev to discussions later today in a bid to end the row that has already led to two 48-hour strikes.

Kieran Mulvey said one of the first issues to be addressed will be the “issue of ongoing industrial action”, which includes a work-to-rule and is set to escalate into two further 24 hour strikes next month – including one on St Patrick’s Day.

“What’s the value of inflicting further pain on workers and commuters when negotiations are taking place to resolve the dispute, and which would make a settlement more difficult?” he asked.

Luas staff plan to hold 24-hour strikes on March 8 and 17 in the dispute over wage increases between 8.5pc and 53.8pc and better working conditions.

This follows a 48-hour strike last week and another this week, which ends today.

But Mr Mulvey warned that the commission is not willing to listen to the same arguments from both sides.

“We’re contacting both parties later today to invite them in separately for discussions with us,” he said.

“On the basis of what we hear, we will decide or not if formal conciliation talks will take place.

“We are not prepared to sit down and listen to the same mantra from both sides. This is too serious for the reiteration of positions.”

Meanwhile, Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe claimed it would be inappropriate for him to get personally involved because the state played a role in the tendering process that led to the awarding of the Luas contract.

Today Mr Donohoe said: "We're seeing a fourth day of very very damaging strikes causing even further damage to the Luas, to our city and commuters."

"Mr Mulvey has outlined his views on the matter and reiterated again as I have done our requirement that everybody engage in reasonable negotiations to see this matter dealt with"

Pressed on whether he, or Taoiseach Enda Kenny should be doing more, the minister said Mr Mulvey had pointed out that the minister should not get personally involved, given the fact that the State had played a role in the procurement process that had led to the awarding of the contract to operate the Luas.

"That was outline by the chairperson or the workplace relations commission. This is the organisation that our country has in place to deal with these matters and he himself has  outlined why that would be inappropriate. We have a contract in place between a company and a state agency. That contract has to been honoured and any intervention at this stage has to respect the fact that a contract is in place and the place in which these discussions must take place are inside the institutions that have been set up by our country to deal with these matters "

SIPTU and Transdev said they will accept the invitation to talks.

“We’ve been saying for weeks that we’re happy to talk to the company in any forum,” said union official Owen Reidy.

“Our position is that we won’t be deferring action until there’s a deal but if the Workplace Relations Commission is going to ask us in, that’s a good thing.”

“It’s incumbent on everybody to try and resolve this to avoid any more action.”

Transdev Managing Director, Gerry Madden, said he was happy to accept Mr Mulvey’s invitation.

"We have been talking for the last number of weeks about having a sensible conversation, and we have signposted the pay norms in this country are between 1pc to 3pc, with productivity."

For now, the sides in the dispute are still far apart.

It is understood that some union representatives support holding strike action throughout the entire St Patrick's Festival weekend.

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