Luas dispute: A delusional pay claim
SIPTU drivers should rethink their position
Demands by SIPTU on behalf of 200 members at Dublin’s Luas system are untenable and its industrial action, which continues today, has inconvenienced an estimated 90,000 commuters and caused financial loss to businesses. Rather than impose further disruption through planned stoppages on March 8th and March 17th, SIPTU should review its demands and seek mediation in the context of proportionality, national competitiveness and a loss-making service provider.
Wage claims exceeding 50 per cent over a five-year period reflect the kind of walk-on-water delusion that afflicted the country during the Celtic Tiger years. Such increases are unsustainable at a time of minimal inflation. But SIPTU demands do not stop there – they include an additional week of holidays for Luas drivers along with better pension provision and family benefits. The company estimates the full claim would add €30 million to its costs over five years.
This dispute and the manner in which it will be resolved could have a seminal effect on industrial relations. The National Bus and Railworkers’ Union has served notice that pay demands for its bus drivers will be based on concessions made to Luas workers. Iarnród Éireann train drivers could then be expected to lodge differential pay claims in a well-established leap-frog exercise.
Because of the election, a whiff of opportunism attends the timing of this strike. But Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe ruled out the possibility of providing Transdev, the loss-making private company that operates the Luas system, with special funding. He also declined to be drawn into a negotiating process.
That is understandable, given the record of previous governments in buckling to pressure from public transport interests. Following initial engagement, both the Labour Court and the Workplace Relations Commission have not become involved again because of what they regard as an unbridgeable gap between the parties. In such circumstances, SIPTU and the Luas drivers should rethink their position.