Saturday 14 December 2019

Luas workers to hold two more strikes next month - including St Patrick's Day

Luas drivers on a picket line in Dublin earlier this month Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Luas drivers on a picket line in Dublin earlier this month Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Anne Marie Walsh

LUAS workers are set to hold two more disruptive strikes next month – including a 24 hour stoppage on Saint Patrick’s Day.

SIPTU has served notice of day-long strikes on Tuesday March 8 and March 17 today in the dispute over pay rises and better working conditions.

And this week’s 48-hour stoppage on Thursday and Friday is also almost certain to go ahead as the union vows that staff will not suspend action even if they enter talks.

SIPTU said a second disruptive strike on the red and green lines will not be suspended unless it reaches an agreement with the tram operator Transdev on a 'significant' pay rise.

And it has rejected the company’s offer that it would consider giving wage increases between 1pc and 3pc.

Sources indicated it is likely to demand at least 5pc to edge closer to agreement.

Notice of industrial action has to be served 21 days in advance under a collective agreement with the company.

SIPTU argues that whatever deal is negotiated, staff will be stuck in it for five years.

As a result, it wants an offer that goes someway towards meeting its demand for pay rises between 8pc and 54pc.

It said if the economy continues to grow, other workers may ramp up their pay rise demands.

Transdev said it is willing to negotiate on pay increases but only within the norms in other sectors of between 1pc and 3pc.

The workers are seeking pay rises between 8.5pc and 53.8pc, as well as better working conditions, including a 10pc bonus and double time for overtime.

The managing director of Transdev, which runs the Luas, spoke of his shock at news of the new strikes and described SIPTU's pay claims as "extreme".

"I am shocked and disappointed to learn that Luas employees plan on stopping the service not just this week, on Thursday and Friday, on Tuesday March 8 and St Patrick’s Day, all in pursuance of their pay claims," said Gerry Madden.

"Not only are SIPTU threatening the company and Luas customers but they will seriously impact business and the tourist sector by their actions."

He said the claims are unjustified.

"They are not benchmarked with any other sector," he said. "They will damage the Irish economy, businesses and the good reputation of Luas."

He said his staff's action will impact thousands of families who use Luas to travel into and out of the parade, as well as other events in the city associated with the festival.

Mr Madden said the pay claims are not benchmarked to any sector. "Sensible voices need to be heard," he added.

Transdev said the pay claim would cost it €30m over the five years of the Luas operating contract but it is running at a loss.

It said most staff get a bonus of 6.5pc on top of their pay, but drivers want this increased to 10pc at a cost to the company of €1.2m over five years.

They also want free GP care and better pension and annual leave entitlements.

Transdev said it lost €700,000 last year and predicts further losses this year.

It said it did not cut or freeze pay during the economic crisis, unlike many other employers.

The company said it increased pay between 2009 and last year by between 1.25pc and 5pc, with 121 of 243 union employees enjoying a pay rise.

Average pay for a ticket inspector is €36,861, while revenue protection supervisors get €42,092.

Drivers' earn €44,234 a year, while a traffic supervisor's average pay is €52,728, including bonuses and overtime.

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