Luas bosses are not hopeful of Easter strike resolution

Staff to halt services on the Dublin light rail system in dispute over pay and conditions

Siptu  officials at the Luas depot at the Red Cow in Dublin following a ballot of tram drivers. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Siptu officials at the Luas depot at the Red Cow in Dublin following a ballot of tram drivers. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

 

Luas management and staff were last night holding out no hope of reaching a deal to avert planned strike action which will halt services on the Dublin light rail system on Easter Sunday and Monday.

The workers, who are members of Siptu, this week overwhelmingly rejected a pay deal brokered at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) in an attempt to resolve the long-running dispute.

Siptu president Jack O’Connor said he remained willing to engage in talks but that Luas operator Transdev must improve its offer.

Further strike action is planned for next weekend and two further dates in April.

The pay deal would have given existing staff increases of up to 18 per cent over 33 months, Transdev said.

However, Luas drivers in particular, the largest group of staff, were unhappy with the proposals and productivity conditions.

Drivers also objected to plans to employ new entrants on rates reduced by 10 per cent.

The company argued that such a two-tier pay structure was permitted under a 2010 deal with Siptu.

It said newly recruited drivers would still earn €31,000, higher than any such driver in any light-rail system in Europe. Transdev has said the offer is now off the table.

Internal meeting

Siptu divisional organiser Owen Reidy said the union had not made a recommendation to staff to accept or reject the proposals but said: “Parties agreed at the negotiations at the WRC that this was the best that could be achieved in the negotiations at that point.”

Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe yesterday called on union leaders to intervene to stop the strike.

He said he would not put the cost of the dispute on the taxpayer.

“I’m not going to take out the chequebook of the taxpayer here to resolve an issue and in so doing create massive costs for the taxpayer in the future and undermine our ability to resolve issues like this across our entire economy,” he said on RTÉ radio.

The National Transport Authority said it had no role in the dispute but encouraged both sides to resolve the matter.

Transdev would not get paid for the days the Luas did not run, an NTA spokeswoman said, adding that the authority remained committed to the contract with Transdev to provide Luas services until 2019.

Mr O’Connor likened the dispute to the 1913 Lockout. “It’s rather ironic...that we are commemorating the memory of James Connolly and the members of the Irish Citizen Army – which was forged in the teeth of the Lockout – who went out and risked and gave their lives,” he told Newstalk.

“It would not be appropriate for me to betray people in the heat of battle – and James Connolly would not have done that.”