Anne-Marie Walsh: Transdev gets tough and puts Luas workers' resolve to test
It's crunch time for the Luas service. After weeks of disruptive strikes, Transdev has taken a hard line with its workers. Either they stop their industrial action, or they will suffer dire financial consequences.
The strikes have already hit them in the pocket. Taking industrial action automatically means they have to forfeit a bonus worth up to €3,000 under a collective agreement.
They have also suffered the loss of pay for the eight days they have gone out.
But now Transdev says the financial shield that the bonus provided while it is being hit with €100,000 fines for each day of strikes is almost exhausted.
By Sunday week, this cover will have run out and it may start recouping its losses from its employees' pay.
In an even more stark demonstration of its intentions, it has emerged that it has warned staff in a letter that it could start removing them from the payroll the following day if they continue to take part in industrial action, be that strikes or a work-to-rule.
Now that they face the prospect of no wages and possibly no job if they continue, the resolve of the Luas drivers, ticket inspectors, ticket supervisors and control room staff will really be tested. Up to now, there has been little sign of disunity in their united front.
They rejected Workplace Relations Commission proposals for pay increases up to 18pc by almost 100pc. Siptu admitted they probably hoped a "white knight" would come over from the UK head office with a better offer because this had happened in a dispute in the past.
The workers have escaped the wrath of the public affected by the strikes to a large extent, mainly because they picketed at their depots rather than the Luas stops.
Now the company has threatened their livelihoods, they must decide if they can sustain an indefinite period on no pay with little certainty of what can be achieved.
At a meeting in Liberty Hall this week, some workers expressed concern about being put on protective notice. And yesterday it emerged that two groups of staff have made overtures to Transdev to hold discussions on its latest pay proposal next week. One group called off its work-to-rule.
Siptu has written to Transdev MD Gerry Madden warning that any attempt to cut its members' wages will be a breach of the Payment of Wages Act and warned its members will "not be found wanting" in their response to lay-offs. But that's as far as it can go.
Now it's over to its members. The future of the campaign of industrial action is in their hands. The shop stewards and their colleagues must decide how far they want to take this dispute.
They have threatened an all-out strike but that will come at a high cost to them, as well as the public.