INDUSTRIAL ACTION INVOLVING the Luas tram drivers has become almost commonplace over the past two months.
The drivers stepped up their claims for improved pay packages on the weekend just passed – however, in striking on the centenary celebrations of the Easter Rising the drivers seem to have turned public opinion firmly against them, if that wasn’t already the case.
This weekend, Saturday 2 and Sunday 3 April, the drivers are set to close off the service once more, and there are a further two strikes planned for the 23 and 24 of that month.
And it very much seems like they’re going to go ahead.
TheJournal.ie spoke to both sides of the dispute to gauge the state of play. Or we tried to at any rate – while union Siptu were relatively forthcoming, Luas operator Transdev are playing their cards very close to their chests.
It seems that currently… there’s very little happening really. Transdev are smarting and gathering their thoughts after the Workplace Relations Commission’s recommendations on the dispute were resoundingly rejected by all four categories of Luas workers late last week.
“The company needs time to reflect and take stock of the situation,” a Transdev source told us.
Managing director of the company, Gerry Madden, who has been Transdev’s public face for much of the negotiations, was not available for comment.
It’s understood that a series of internal meetings are being held at Transdev in order to clarify what steps the company will take next. That should become clear closer to the end of the week. And it doesn’t sound likely that whatever is said will be enough to allay a further two days of strike action.
“There’s no change from last week,” Siptu’s Willie Noone told us this afternoon.
The strike is still scheduled for the weekend and there’s no sign of any breakthrough. It’s not realistic to think that the drivers will cancel. Last weekend the strike went ahead which was very hard given the circumstances, so it’s not likely that they will stop this weekend’s action.
Noone describes the situation as “a stalemate”, but insists that the ball is firmly in Transdev’s court.
“The drivers can’t make the move, so it’s up to the company now,” he said.
It seems the impasse won’t be consulting the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) going forward however.
“All sides agreed that the WRC was the best course of action,” says Noone. “The WRC’s recommendations were rejected. We’ve exhausted all procedures.”
So, is the possibility of an indefinite strike becoming more likely?
“I would say indefinite, or more likely we’ll continue serving notice of two-day strikes, then possibly three-days,” says Noone, who suggests that the possibility of other Luas worker categories (there’s four looking for pay increases, of which the drivers are just one) getting involved in the strikes is very real.
The problem he says is that “all trust has broken down”.
It would only take a minor change to get this situation resolved, given the issue was so minor in our eyes, the fact that the company wouldn’t move on it has dampened all trust on our side.
The WRC’s recommendations last week would have seen experienced drivers’ salaries move to €50,000 from €42,247 by 2019. This was short of the 27% raise they had requested.
Perhaps more critical was the fact that a starting salary for a new Luas driver would have dropped to €29,080 from €32,311 under the WRC proposals.
“There’s three issues – the fact that new drivers would be paid less, the second issue was that the offer wasn’t high enough, and there were productivity (working hours) issues too,” says Noone.
This one looks set to run and run. You may want to get a bus into town this weekend.
Originally published: 2.25pm