Luas security staff are to vote on strike action after rejecting a pay deal worth only a fraction of what is on the table for drivers, the Herald can reveal.
As the prospect of a "summer of discontent" looms with the drivers' pay row continuing, Luas operator Transdev could soon be faced with another industrial dispute.
The latest headache to hit the troubled tram system emerged when security guards, who work for a private firm, dem- anded an increase on their €10.75 hourly rate.
Despite the fact that they are regularly attacked, spat at and verbally abused while doing their jobs, the guards earn around half of what Luas drivers who have reached the top of the pay-scale for their grade get.
The hourly rate for a guard can be bumped up to €12.50 for late night and Sunday allow- ances.
This means the pay scale ranges from €21,800 to €26,000 compared with drivers who start at €32,000 and can earn up to €42,000 a year.
Luas security guards are also paid less than their counterparts who police Dart services and earn €13.84 per hour.
The €10.75 figure is the minimum wage for security guards employed by private firm STT Risk Management which holds the Luas contract.
The guards, represented by Siptu, made a pay claim recently in the Labour Court.
They demanded an increase because they feel their role goes beyond that of regular security staff and because the "profile" of people they must deal with on the Luas is different to those encountered by other guards.
They also argued that they deal with more people and have to cope with more anti-social behaviour incidents.
The Labour Court recommended an interim pay increase of 6pc, which would bring the basic hourly wage up to €11.40 an hour by the beginning of 2018.
Pay could not be fully reviewed, the Labour Court said, until the job the guards do was reclassified in conjunction with the Private Security Authority (PSA).
However, staff have rejected these proposals and are due to meet with their union representative this week or early next week to vote on strike action.
It is understood that the risky nature of the guards' job and concerns about safety and training are also at the root of the dispute, which has been largely kept out of the public eye.
An agreement between Siptu and the company exists which states that strike action will not be pursued, but the Herald understands that the union is willing to back the workers.
Transdev was not able to clarify at the time of writing if the Luas would be able to operate in the event of a strike by security staff. Before the rejection of the pay deal, STT Risk Management's director of operations said the company was willing to accept the terms set out by the Labour Court.
However, following the workers' vote, all queries were direct- ed to Transdev who then declined to comment due to the commercial arrangement between the two firms.
Transdev dismissed concerns about health and safety that have been raised by workers.
"Transdev operates Luas in accordance with all regulatory legislation and our safety management system is certified by the Rail Safety Commission," a spokeswoman said.