Transdev fears stoppages will continue all summer
Luas operator Transdev has defended its decision to dock drivers a full day's pay if they take part in a four-hour work stoppage next month, saying it wants to avoid a "summer of discontent".
The company - which has already suspended sick pay and cancelled drivers' annual bonus for this year - said it has sought legal advice over pay for "part performance" and will dock drivers a full day's wages.
"We looked at the whole impact of this on the customer and the fact that we have been given strong indications locally that the idea was to just keep going here, to keep serving the company notice of an hour here and four hours [there] which would be a massive disruption throughout the entire summer," a company source told the Irish Independent.
"To avoid this summer of discontent, we have decided to say, 'Look, we're entitled to dock the whole shift rather than just four or six hours of it'."
According to the tram company, the work stoppages will disrupt services for around six hours because trams would not be able to start a journey and be left on the line once the stoppage comes into effect.
In a letter to trade union Siptu, the company said it will "no longer accept part performance of the duties required under employees' contracts".
Anne O'Connell, head of the employment law division at Sherwin O'Riordan Solicitors, said the company was entitled to dock wages from employees engaging in strike action.
"There is a provision in the Payment of Wages Act that allows for deduction of pay in relation to employees that are involved in industrial action," she said. However, she said the company would probably have to justify the extent of the deduction.
However, Siptu has accused the company of "pouring fuel on the fire" of the ongoing dispute.
"It's quite tragic at this stage. Instead of resolving this thing and getting into a space where we spend the next few days in a room hammering out a deal, Gerry [Madden, Transdev managing director] seems to spend more time talking and plotting and planning in relation to counteracting action and pouring fuel on the fire," Siptu organiser Owen Reidy told Newstalk.
He also said the union was willing to talk to the company at "two hours' notice" in a bid to resolve the bitter row over pay for the tram drivers.
Earlier this week, Mr Madden said the absentee rate in the company had risen three-fold this year compared to last year, prompting the decision to cut sick pay.
The rate has jumped from 4.5pc to 12pc, he said.
"The absence calculation has been calculated the same way since the start of operations in June 2004 so the figure of 12pc and the calculation has followed the same formula since the start of operations and we know it is accurate," a spokeswoman said last night.
Work stoppages lasting four hours will take place in June.