By Gordon Deegan
Luas operator Transdev has issued in excess of 100 cooler bags to Luas drivers in a bid to resolve a €250,000 per annum ‘packed lunch’ row with its drivers.
The unusual move by the Luas firm is in response to SIPTU claiming that new working arrangements, brought about as a result of the new Luas Cross City Line, mean that a number of drivers on the Green Line no longer have the option of bringing their packed lunches to work as the lunches will go stale in their Luas driver cabs.
In the row before the Labour Court, SIPTU state that before the Luas Cross City Line, drivers commencing their day at the Sandyford Depot could have their packed lunch at the depot but some drivers are now required to have their lunch-break at the new Broombridge depot in Cabra where they won’t be able to have a packed lunch.
SIPTU state that this will result in an increased cost to drivers as they won’t have the option of bringing their lunches to work if their lunch break is at the new depot.
SIPTU Transport Sector Organiser, John Murphy warned on Thursday that if not resolved, the dispute has the potential to bring a ballot for industrial action by drivers at the company.
Mr Murphy sounded his warning after forecasting that a drivers’ ballot to be held in the next two weeks on Labour Court proposals aimed at resolving the dispute will be rejected by SIPTU members.
In the Labour Court recommendation, Kevin Foley of the Labour Court has stated that the court “would not normally concern itself with the functioning of cooler bags” but has recommended that Transdev carry out a risk assessment of the cooler bags in question "and commit to ensuring that the cooler bags are capable of transporting drivers’ packed lunches safely from one depot to another".
In response, Mr Murphy said: “We don’t believe that the cooler bags will keep packed lunches fresh as they will be three to four hours in a warm cab. If the company could prove a cooler bag could resolve the issue it would have done so before now. I don’t believe that the cooler bags are practical.”
Mr Murphy said there has been a poor take up by drivers on the cooler bags “and little or no drivers are using the cooler bags”.
Mr Murphy said that members “are a bit away from a ballot for industrial action. After the vote on the Labour Court proposals, we would go back directly to the company and try to have this resolved”.
The Labour Court report on the row stated that SIPTU Luas drivers affected are working new rosters under protest in light of the dispute.
In order to resolve the dispute, Mr Murphy said that SIPTU wants all drivers on the Green Line to have their lunch break at the Sandyford depot.
At the Labour Court, Transdev stated that concession of SIPTU’s claim would be €250,000 per annum and that the parties’ 2016 agreement precludes any cost increasing claims over the lifetime of the agreement.
The €250,000 annual cost comprises of the hiring of five new drivers that would allow every driver have their lunch at the Sandyford depot.
In its recommendation and in a blow to SIPTU’s claim, the Labour Court has stated that it is reasonable for a Luas driver to be required to take breaks at a depot other than his or her originating depot.
As part of its recommendation, the Labour Court has recommended that Transdev and SIPTU should continue to work together to optimise the facilities available in both depots and in particular to ensure, as far as possible, that drivers enjoy similar facilities in both locations.
A spokesperson for Transdev declined to comment today on the Labour Court recommendation other than to confirm that the risk assessment of the cooler bags is underway.
In its recommendation, the Labour Court noted that of 67 daily duties Monday to Friday only 12 drivers have all breaks at a depot other than the driver’s originating depot; on Saturdays only 1 of 47 duties has all breaks in a depot other than the driver’s originating depot and on a Sunday all breaks are at a driver’s originating depot.