These drivers are ordinary people who provide a vital public service for the people of Dublin and who have to work in situations, with pedestrians and cars in close proximity to the trams - protecting the safety of millions of passengers and pedestrians every year. Thankfully, due to the diligent work of the Luas drivers, accidents have been at a minimum since the creation of the Luas.
The Luas drivers have families to raise, mortgages to pay and like other workers have had their real take-home pay slashed under the impact of austerity. What they are looking for, after five years of a pay freeze and crippling austerity taxes, is a 5% per year pay increase over five years- this is entirely reasonable.
Currently, the Luas drivers’ pay ranges from €33,000 for a 39 hour week in year one and €42,247 after 9 years. I think that their pay claim is quite reasonable when you consider the increased cost of living, taxes and levies which are being imposed on ordinary workers like Luas drivers, nurses, bus drivers, Gardaí etc. The previous government and the current caretaker government have been talking about recovery for a long time now. If we truly are looking at recovery then we must have proper pay restoration for workers across the board. These workers are right to demand a share in the so-called recovery. I would also say well done to the drivers for standing up for new entrants who are being proposed to be paid a lower starting salary for doing the same work. People across the country have rightly expressed outrage when the same two tier pay structure was imposed on new entrant nurses and teachers - it is equally unjust to demand this of new entrant Luas drivers.
We also must point out that Transdev is a very profitable multinational company. Their revenues are up due to increased passenger number and rising fares. According to the Luas website, 2015 ‘has been the most successful year for Luas to date in terms of the number of passenger trips. In 2015 the number of Luas passenger trips reached an impressive 34.6 million. This means that an additional 1.99 million or 6.1% more trips were made in 2015 compared to 2014.’ If the company are having difficulties paying wages then I would suggest that their business model is questionable at best.
The Luas was one of the good things to come out of the Celtic Tiger period. At the moment the company, Transdev and Veolia, are running it into the ground.
What we need is solidarity from other workers across different sectors in Ireland. People Before Profit believe that a victory for the Luas workers is a victory for all workers because it would represent a huge win for working people who have seen their earnings savaged in recent years and would present an opportunity for other workers to make a stand for the increased pay which they deserve after years of austerity.