Tens of thousands of regular commuters and overseas visitors face the headache of making their way around Dublin without the Luas on St Patrick’s Day following a decision by Luas employees to stage further work stoppages.
In a statement last night, Siptu members who work for Transdev, the company which operates Luas, announced two additional 24-hour work stoppages in their dispute over pay and conditions.
The two dates, decided on by workers, are March 8 and March 17. These are in addition to an already scheduled 48-hour stoppage which is set to begin on Thursday at 4am and on top of a strike last Thursday and Friday which caused major disruption to around 90,000 customers.
Siptu transport organiser, Owen Reidy, said the workers were “very keen to resolve this dispute as soon as possible” and remained available for talks “in whatever forum is appropriate”.
He said it was incumbent on management at Transdev to “engage meaningfully” with the union to avoid further escalation of the dispute.
However, Transdev managing director, Gerry Madden, said the pay claims demanded by Siptu were “extreme and are not benchmarked to any sector”.
He said the workers’ actions were “threatening the company” and would impact “on the thousands of families who use Luas to travel into and out of the [St Patrick’s Day] parade, not just the parade but all the events in the city associated with the festival”.
According to Transdev, the claims being pursued by Siptu on pay alone are between 8.5% and 53.8% depending on the pay scale, and would cost Transdev €30m over the five years of the Luas operating contract.
The strikes have already had a significant cost for both sides. Because they proceeded with industrial action, workers have lost their annual bonus worth 6.5% of salary. In addition, by the end of this week, they will have four days’ pay cut — equivalent to almost a 2% pay cut. And the company is facing fines of €100,000 for each day when it fails to provide a transport service.
Last night, Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe said the plan to strike on St Patrick’s Day was “exceptionally bad news not only to commuters, who rely on Luas for their daily commute, but also to the 100,000 overseas visitors who will travel to Dublin to help us celebrate our national holiday”.
“I remind everyone that the State’s industrial relations’ resolution bodies remain ready to assist in finding a resolution to this issue. I call on both parties to the dispute to avail of them,” said Mr Donohoe.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved