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The Luas is shut down again today, but is there any hope of a resolution?

Both sides of the dispute have firmly dug their heels in.

LUAS STRIKE 070 copy Source: Sam Boal

LUAS SERVICES HAVE once again been shut down today, marking the 11th day of strikes since a dispute between staff and management burst out into the open at the beginning of the year.

Over the months there have been claims and counter-claims from both sides of the dispute. There have been losses of wages for striking workers and losses of revenue for operating company Transdev.

However, as the months have ground on, both sides have dug their heels in and the dispute has become increasingly intractable as the public becomes more and more frustrated.

Siptu has served notice of more stoppages throughout June, while Transdev has hinted at the possibility that workers could be laid off if the dispute isn’t resolved.

With things seemingly getting worse as the months pass, are we in any way near a resolution?

Where we’re at

Transdev says that it will only engage in further negotiations with Luas drivers and Siptu if there is a reasonable basis for them to do so.

In a statement on Wednesday, CEO Gerry Madden said that there was “no basis for any third party intervention or for direct discussions” while the drivers maintained their current position.

16/03/2016. Pictured is Transdev Managing Director Source: Leah Farrell

The drivers overwhelmingly rejected a proposed deal reached at the Workplace Relations Commission in March, with over 99% of those balloted voting against it.

Transdev has since removed that deal from the table, saying that the longer the strikes go on the less money it will have to offer up as a solution.

Transdev is fined €100,000 for breach of contract for each day it fails to run the Luas service, bringing the total amount lost to date to €1,100,000 (although some of this is offset by not having to pay the workers’ wages for these days or their yearly bonus).

So while Transdev says that it will only offer less than the WRC deal, Siptu and the drivers are still looking for more – and therein lies the seemingly unsolvable nature of the dispute.

luas strike 982 copy (1) Luas drivers picket outside the Sandyford Depot of the Green Luas line today Source: Sam Boal

Diminishing pot

Speaking on RTÉ’s News at One this afternoon, Gerry Madden said that if the drivers were to come forward with a reasonable solution, talks could continue.

“The pot that I have to play with to reward them diminishes with every strike,” he said.

If they were genuinely coming into a space where they recognise that’s the range that and we can negotiate in and they’ve got some ideas about productivity – that would be welcome.

Madden also said that the laying off of drivers was “signposted” as one of the issues in the future, and that he would be meeting Transdev’s legal team on Monday to “explore what means” the company had to resolve the dispute.

“However, what we’ll try to do is use all of the conventional methods to find a resolution so we’re not looking at that but the situation changes on a day to day, week to week basis,” he said.

Speaking this morning on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Siptu Divisional Organiser Owen Reidy said that Transdev had cut off negotiations 19 days ago and that it seemed like the company “don’t want to negotiate”.

16/3/2016.Negotiations over Luas Strikes Owen Reidy (File photo) Source: Leah Farrell

“Since that time they have spent their time cutting the pay of staff by 10%, threatening to take people off the payroll, forcing people to work through their breaks and not facilitating people with their annual leave,” said Reidy.

Reidy said accepting the WRC proposals was not an option and that accepting any lower offer “was not going to happen”.

“It seems Transdev after 19 days of cutting off the talks, don’t want to negotiate,” he said.

And I don’t know if they want to try to humiliate or force their own employees into submission, but that won’t happen.

So Transdev says it will only agree to talks if there is a reasonable basis to do so, while Siptu says it will only engage if Transdev are willing to move closer to the drivers’ demands.

But as things stand there are further strikes scheduled for later on this month as well more stoppages in June. With no talks scheduled, it’s getting harder and harder to see how this all will end.

Read: Don’t forget – there’s another Luas strike tomorrow

Read: The Luas will be off tomorrow – and there are four more strikes planned this month

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About the author:

Cormac Fitzgerald

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