Saturday 21 July 2018

Luas workers on protective notice as dispute escalates

Commuters walk on the Luas line during one of the recent strikes, of which more are planned by drivers. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Commuters walk on the Luas line during one of the recent strikes, of which more are planned by drivers. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Anne Marie Walsh and Breda Heffernan

The long-running Luas dispute hit a new low after the company put all workers on protective notice while their union has raised the prospect of a complete shutdown of the tram system in five weeks.

Tram operator Transdev said the employment of all staff was now on a "day-to-day basis until further notice".

In a stark warning to drivers and traffic supervisors, the company said it would no longer accept "part-performance" of their contracts and said any staff who take part in industrial action after a deadline of April 24 would have their wages cut.

In a letter to staff, it said employees who refused to carry out their duties would be deemed to have "temporarily removed themselves from the payroll".

Transdev said a revised pay proposal, which would give a 10pc increase to all staff, will expire on April 17.

However, the prospect of staff accepting this offer is remote given they have already overwhelmingly rejected an 18pc increase negotiated at the Workplace Relations Commission. In response to the hard line taken by the company, Siptu divisional organiser Owen Reidy said a ballot for an all-out strike was under "serious consideration".

If workers vote in favour of all-out strike, it could mean the tram system would grind to a complete halt in just five weeks' time.

Responding to Transdev's letter to staff last night, Mr Reidy said that over the next 48 hours, union representatives would be talking informally to members and may hold a general meeting to decide whether to seek a mandate for an all-out strike.

"An all-out strike is under serious consideration," he said. "We are waiting to see the letter, but we have been told what we can expect. When the lads rejected 'X' (the Workplace Relations Commission proposal), they are hardly going to say they will take 'X less Y'."

He said it was clear the company was in "no mood" to resolve the dispute. "Transdev has escalated the dispute by breaking off all talks and threatening our members' livelihoods. This move makes a negotiated settlement to this dispute even more remote.

"Siptu members are engaged in a lawful trade dispute and are fully compliant with both their collective agreements with the company and the Industrial Relations Act 1990. If this was not the case the company would have sought a court injunction before now. It has not done this as it has no grounds to do so," he said.

Transdev said that after its meeting with the union earlier this week, "there is no basis for any talks or other intervention in this dispute at this point".

It said that, because the union's expectations remained in excess of what was proposed at the WRC, any new talks would have "absolutely no prospect of success".

Mr Reidy accused Transdev of acting in an "aggressive manner" by deciding to close talks and refuse any third-party intervention.

"It should be remembered that it has pursued this course of action while operating a multi-million euro publicly funded State contract," he added.

"Siptu members are now calling on the other stakeholders in this dispute to clearly condemn the company's actions and call upon it to make itself available for dialogue. Only through dialogue can we reach a settlement to this dispute that all parties can accept."

Irish Independent

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