TALKS BETWEEN STRIKING Luas drivers and supervisors have broken down with the prospect of a full service strike on St Patrick’s Day, Easter Sunday and Easter Monday now looking very likely.
And the dreaded spectre of an all-out strike has now raised its head.
Last night, talks at the Workplace Relations Commission between Transdev, the company which operates Luas, and the workers’ union Siptu ended at an impasse after a mammoth 11 hours of negotiations.
Initially Luas workers had been looking for pay increases of between 8% and 53%. That has since been reduced to 30% according to Siptu, however Transdev says that the workers’ demands will have to drop still more significantly in order for them to be able to negotiate.
Speaking today to Morning Ireland on Radio One, Transdev’s Gerry Madden and Siptu’s Owen Reidy gave little indication that the two sides are close to finding a common ground.
Madden for his part says that yesterday was a “good day” at the WRC.
“We didn’t leave, we had gone as far as we could – out of four grades of employee we have a platform for further discussions with two of them, and with another grade we’re not too far off, they may yet be back in the game, that’s a result as far as I’m concerned,” he said.
The real challenge is with the drivers. I don’t know any employer who wouldn’t struggle to meet a 30% pay increase. Hopefully the drivers are thinking and reflecting – the others have found a way back in, instead of escalating their action they may think about properly modifying their claim.
By contrast, Siptu’s Reidy found yesterday to be “a very mixed day”.
“If you want consensus and compromise you do it by talking,” he said.
As things stand we’ve no choice but to escalate. Whatever deal will be done a lot of it will be productivity related,with the new Luas line a lot more work and productivity are going to be required, but Transdev have said ‘sorry lads, you’re not worthy of discussions’.
The people in the driving grade were prepared to compromise but you weren’t willing to talk. This is a gilt-edged opportunity to sort this out.
Pay increase breakdown
The actual nature of the modified pay claim being made by the Luas drivers is as follows, according to a source:
A 30% pay increase over five years, assuming a base salary of €42,250, would see pay rise increments yearly to €55,000 by 2019.
The drivers’ request is therefore to be at €55,000 in three years time plus a 10% bonus of €5,492.
The claim also includes a pension contribution increase from 5% to 10%, while the 10% bonus being requested is an increase from the current 6.5%.
Makes no difference
Madden dismissed the idea of a 30% pay increase as being ‘gilt-edged’ for any employer, and countered that Transdev are still waiting for fact-based rationales for the various pay claims being made.
“Owen seems to be talking about the cross-town Luas project. Next year we’ll hire 29 new drivers and six new ticket collectors. They’ll be doing their own job. Where is the extra work? A driver can only drive one tram,” he said.
As regards the three strikes planned for St Patrick’s Day, Easter Sunday, and Easter Monday, Reidy said that calling them off would only become an option “once an agreement is reached”.
Madden countered that “my door remains open to any reasonable pay claim”.
From a purely commercial point of view those three days make absolutely no difference to Transdev.
Were the situation to escalate into an all-out strike, it will be at least five weeks before such an eventuality could materialise.
“That’s the earliest that could happen,” said Reidy.
We’d have to take soundings amongst our neighbours, ideally hold a general meeting, and then we would have to give 21 days notice, so the earliest it could happen would be five weeks.