Friday 24 November 2017

Talks to halt Luas strikes in jeopardy after discussions called off due to 'unofficial action'

Commuters walking along the Luas tracks at Ranelagh following strike. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Commuters walking along the Luas tracks at Ranelagh following strike. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Anne-Marie Walsh Industry Correspondent

Talks to halt more disruptive strikes at the Luas are in jeopardy after a state mediation body called off discussions due to “unofficial action”.

Negotiations between Transdev and Siptu were due to begin on Monday to try to end the row over pay rises and better working conditions.

But the union has confirmed that it has been contacted by the Workplace Relations Commission this afternoon, which informed it that the talks will not go ahead.

It said this was because Transdev claimed “unofficial action” due to a sharp increase in the number of toilet breaks being taken is still taking place.

Last week, the company claimed that a big rise in bathroom visits was causing major delays in the operation of the tram service.

“The company has informed the WRC that unofficial action is taking place, so it won’t engage,” said Siptu official, Willie Noone.

“We informed the company and the WRC that the union, or any of our reps, are not involved in any unofficial action that is taking place.”

When asked about the sharp increase in toilet breaks, Mr Noone said the breaks were causing delays because traffic controllers who are engaged in an official work to rule are not as readily available to “regulate” services.

He said an increase in breaks appeared to be occurring because breaks were only recorded when delays took place.

However, he added that “anything that is happening that shouldn’t, should cease”.

Industrial action at the Luas has already closed the tram service for four days and caused delays in services.

The row over pay rises of 8pc to 54pc is set to escalate into 24 hour stoppages on March 8 and 17.

Transdev wrote to Siptu today accusing it of failing to intervene to halt the “unofficial action”. It said normally, employees who engage in this type of behaviour would be removed from the payroll. “However, we don’t want to be forced to penalise people who are clearly being misled at this point,” it said.

 However, the company said staff will lose pay for taking part in the action.

 A spokeswoman said Transdev had an obligation to run a service and “it cannot be interrupted”.

“We regret deeply that SIPTU would not cease this unofficial action,” she said.

“We had asked them prior to issuing this letter, but to no avail.

“The customer is the loser here, the 90,000 people who use the Luas daily. To state it is not orchestrated is not credible.”

She said last year there was less than one personal needs break per day, but they now run into double digits per day.

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