Tag Archives: Luas

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From top: Patricia King, general secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions this morning at the Labour Court; Luas commuters; Jimmy Dignam

As Siptu and Transdev meet at the Labour Court to resolve the Luas driver’s dispute a Workers’ Party activist sets out the case against Transdev.

Jimmy Dignam writes:

The LUAS strike is not about how big the pie is – it’s about agreeing the fairest way of sharing the spoils.

And Transdev’s behaviour shows that privatising our services means increasing spoils for corporations – at the expense of workers and the state.

Over the past twelve years, the Luas service has been a stunning success – not only for the commuters it serves, but also for its operator, multinational transport giant Transdev.

In 2013, the company’s EBITDA (Earnings before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortization – a useful proxy for company profitability) were €1.54 million, while in 2014 they were €1.24 million.

In 2013 it paid a dividend of €1.68 million to its shareholders while its parent companies, Veolia and Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations, generated profits of €246 million and €1.8 billion, respectively, in 2014.

In addition, Irish profits are likely to rise significantly when the Red and Green lines are joined in 2017. And given that Transdev is reportedly considering bidding for bus routes when they are put out to tender later this year, they obviously still view Ireland as a lucrative transport market.

Transdev have succesfully manipulated the public mind into seeing them as a struggling company, burdened by unreasonable pay claims. But what we can be sure of is that the shareholders are getting their fair share – why not the workers?

So the current dispute is not about workers bringing an ailing company to its knees. Rather, it is about workers seeking to negotiate with a profitable company for an improvement in their terms and conditions. As one worker put it last week when interviewed by The Journal: “We’re looking for a fair slice of the company we’ve helped build”.

After years of listening to voices in the establishment decrying the plight of the private sector worker in comparison to their ‘overpaid’ public-sector counterpart, one might have expected the media to swing in behind the Luas workers in their struggle for better conditions.

Yet, the artificial, media-constructed divide between public and private sector workers has taken a 180 degree turn over the last number of months.

From the vilification of public sector workers at the height of the economic crisis we must now listen to denunciations of greedy private sector tram drivers holding the population to ransom. Nurses, doctors and teachers, once denounced, are now lauded in comparison – one suspects there is a more general anti-worker agenda at play here.

The divide and conquer tactics are transparent and almost farcical – we hear that a Junior Doctor is paid less than a Luas Driver – The Journal debunks this one showing that a Junior Doctor’s average starting pay (including average bonus and overtime) is greater than that of a Luas Driver in year 1 and by year 10 is almost two times greater.

When I joined them on the picket line last month I was struck by the conviction of the Luas workers’ beliefs.

They recounted the intense concentration required while driving through Smithfield at midnight, as drunk young people stumbled out onto the tracks – and how a seemingly small increase in unbroken driving time, as proposed by Transdev, would in fact go against best practice health and safety advice.

They also spoke passionately about how unfair it is that a worker is paid less in the private sector than the public sector for doing fundamentally the same work.

Luas Drivers wages are ‘significantly lower than those of Dart, Suburban or Irish Rail Mainline drivers’.

How is it that, for those at the top, we hear enormous public salaries justified by a need to compete with the private sector, but for the ordinary workers, it’s considered acceptable to earn less in a private company?

Meanwhile, LUAS workers accused of greed and self-interest rejected outright proposals from Transdev that new entrants would earn less in real terms than colleague who started five years ago. Its an admirable demonstration of solidarity with young, precarious workers.

The contrast between this solidarity, and the profit-hunger of Transdev is worth dwelling on.

Why is it we believe that a massive, profitable multinational company has the right to increase its profits indefinitely, while workers’ demands for a commensurate increase in wages is regarded as greed?

Transdev’s consistent profitability over successive years shows that the LUAS is one of the most profitable elements of our transport system.

But currently, as a state we lease the provision of this profitable service out to a private company to benefit from. It will always generate more revenue than an isolated bus route in rural west Cork – I imagine Transdev won’t be leasing that service provision from the state any time soon.

If Transdev are not willing to pay workers a decent wage to do a valuable job, then let us do them a favour; end the state’s contract with Transdev, and take LUAS provision into public ownership, a valuable asset we’d be happy to manage, pay workers a decent wage, and improve the financial sustainability of Ireland’s public transport system as a whole.

Jimmy Dignam is a member of UNITE’s Youth Committee and a Workers’ Party representative for Dublin Northwest Follow him on Twitter: @JimmyDignamWP

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RTE reports:

Luas operator Transdev has warned drivers if they proceed with their four-hour stoppages scheduled for the coming weeks, they will be docked a full day’s pay.

Transdev has previously warned drivers that because of the intermittent strikes and an ongoing work-to-rule, they would consider a number of options including lay-off without pay, short-time working, and/or a reduction or elimination of pay on foot of partial performance of contracts of employment.

…In response, SIPTU has accused Transdev of of “pouring fuel on the fire”.

Divisional Organiser Owen Reidy alleged that the company was out of control and operating in a reckless way.

Transdev to dock full pay for four-hour Luas stoppages (RTE)

Previously: Between The Lines

UPDATE:

Meanwhile…

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Thanks SaintThomas

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This afternoon.

Siptu members (including Maltese Terrie ‘Lemmy’, above) and Luas drivers picket the Red Cow Luas depot in their ongoing dispute with Transdev.

Meanwhile

The National Transport Authority has fined Transdev €1m for failing to deliver the service. The net cost to the company is €400,000.

RTÉ has asked the NTA at what point Transdev’s failure to deliver the service would lead to it losing the contract, rather than just being fined. A response is awaited.

A spokesperson for Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe this afternoon said: “It is up to both sides to work together to narrow their differences and find a resolution to this dispute, which continues to negatively impact commuters.”

Eight strike days expected at Luas next month (RTÉ)

Earlier: The Tracks Of Our Tears

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Non-driver employees accept Luas pay offer (RTE)

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This afternoon.

Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2

A People Before Profit cross party event to support Luas drivers in their ongoing dispute with the tram’s operators, Transdev.

Talks between management and Siptu were to resume today after drivers cancelled the 48-hour  stoppage scgeduled for this weekend.

Supporters this afternoon included TDs Richard Boyd Barrett, Dessie Ellis, Paul Murphy, Joan Collins and Brid Smith.

Fight!

Rollingnews

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Head of the Workplace Relations Commission Kieran Mulvey outside Croke Park this morning; Jack O’Connor, Siptu President

Further to the Luas strike brouhaha…

Siptu president Jack O’Connor called on the head of the Workplace Relations Commission Kieran Mulvey to resign following comments Mr Mulvey made on RTE’s Morning Ireland this morning.

Mr Mulvey went on Morning Ireland after workers rejected a resolution proposed by the WRC.

He told Morning Ireland that the union Siptu hadn’t been in contact with him since the proposal was rejected and that he didn’t know why the workers rejected the proposal.

Following Mr O’Connor’s call for Mr Mulvey to step down, Mr Mulvey went on News At One and spoke to Conor Brophy.

Grab a Flahavan’s tay.

Kieran Mulvey: “I was fulfilling what I believe is my role to point out where the parties could potentially go in this dispute to solve it – it’s affecting 90,000 people every time there’s a stoppage in the Luas. The institutions of the State have been used for dispute resolution. What I was clearly indicating to everyone who wanted to listen and to really understand what I had to say was that there wasn’t much more to be done on this dispute. That the parties really need to convey to us what precisely is wrong at the moment and effectively to say that we’re still available to do this but I also did say that, you know, on both sides, I was applying it to both sides, we need leadership…”

Conor Brophy: “But can we look at, just, one of the comments in particular that you made this morning, you said of the services being disrupted, it’s not being disrupted by the company. We’ve seen this to particularly antagonise Jack O’Connor – was that an unwise comment to make?”

Mulvey: “Well I was only pointing out a fact of life here. That the reason..”

Brophy: “But could that not be construed though as being partial and isn’t that a problem for someone in your position?”

Mulvey: “It isn’t, no. Jack O’Connor made a number of remarks this morning and I’d like, on the stage and I’d like to say what I think of them: one is he mentioned a number of inaccuracies. He said I intervened prematurely in this dispute. I intervened at the behest of both SIPTU and Transdev and the minister to call the parties back. They were on the airwaves demanding to come back. That’s what I did. I also, in order to get that dispute into a space in which we could engage in negotiations, I directly called on Transdev to stop hiring buses that would only escalate the situation and the unions, in response, and I thought it was a positive gesture, called off the St Patrick’s Day dispute. I didn’t ask them to do anything beyond that. What I tried to do is create the conditions. Secondly, he said by my premature intervention in this dispute, after we had been involved for a number of months in this dispute, my premature intervention seemingly put off side some initiative that was being taken that nobody seems to know about by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and certainly I wasn’t aware of and if I had been aware of, naturally, as I’ve done in the past, with ICTU, IBEC, the Government or wherever, I would have sat down with the parties and see whether that is a way of going forward or not..”

Brophy: “I should mention at this point, you mentioned Patricia King, the general secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions as potentially having been working on some proposal, we have made efforts to contact Patricia King, who wasn’t available and…”

Mulvey: “Well, look, in fairness, I have worked with Patricia King over the last 25 years, she’s a superb union representative and superb public official.”

Brophy: “Suffice to say, you weren’t aware of any such proposal?”

Mulvey: “Not at all, like I mean, I can’t go out into the ether and find out what’s going on in people’s brains in these matters. But other, Jack O’Connor then went on to make a number of personal attacks on me. Now I’m not getting in, I never in any dispute in the last 25 years, I’ve been chief executive of the Labour Relations Commission, I am also now director general of Workplace Relations Commission. To make a number of personal comments, regarding me, on this station and on other stations, I do not get involved in personal disputes and I do not make personal attacks. And anybody who knows me knows that for the last 25 years. I am, I don’t descend to that, I was told then, I was the teachers’ conference as if somehow I’m responsible for the problem. When I was a representative for teacher unions for 15 years and I doubt there’s a teacher or academic in this country who’d criticise what I achieved for them: so let’s clear that as well. Let’s get back to the real issue here. It is the Luas dispute, the Luas dispute can only be resolved by negotiation and in order to complete the negotiations we’ve been involved in, we need to know what the issues are that are unacceptable to the workers involved. And, secondly, we need to know are the company in the same space. We’re not a million miles from resolving in this dispute. But we can’t have negotiations where, at some stage, we’re following the wrong track or we’re give the wrong direction.”

Brophy: “Was that what motivated you to come on the airwaves in the first place? Cause I’m sure some people will say maybe the better thing to have done would have been to save your breath, cool your porridge at this point, just let it pan out for some time, let things cool down and wait for one or ether of the parties to make a move.”

Mulvey: I’m not cooling any porridge, I’m just concerned about 90,000 people on Saturday and Sunday who can’t get about their business and who next week can’t get about it either. These are 90,000 citizens of this state who are going to work, going to hospital, going to schools, going to college, I’m a public official, I’m obliged under the statutory provisions of my act to take into consideration the public. This is not always about employers or trade unions.”

Brophy: “You say that the sides weren’t a million miles apart though but only two of the 167 members voted in favour of the deal. It was then subsequently labelled, again by Jack O’Connor, as a ridiculous proposal, that no trade union member would have voted to accept. That suggests that there might be a few more miles between the parties than may originally have been, appeared to have been the case.”

Mulvey: “Well, look, that’s an opinion expressed by Jack O’Connor. I’ve been involved in negotiations on Haddington Road, in Croke Park and Lansdowne Road on myriad of rescue negotiations, in a myriad of companies involving SIPTU and its predecessor the Irish Transport and General Workers Union, the FWI. What came out of the commission is not greatly different that has come out from an awful lot of disputes. And what came out of the commission was in negotiation, the cut and thrust of the parties in there who were there for a considerably long time. It is about our tenth intervention in this dispute apart from two visits to the Labour Court regarding it.”

Later

Mulvey: “In all my career, 41 years, I have a track record of defending workers’ interests and rights all through those years. And I won’t be told by anybody, irrespective of the position, that I’m biased.”

Brophy: “Have you spoken to Jack O’Connor since this morning?”

Mulvey: “I haven’t, no, but I’d like to talk to Jack and Jack has my number and I have his. We had a difficulty the order day with who rang whom, I’ll sort this out with Jack O’Connor. We’ll sort this out. But the issue is the Luas dispute. Not me or Jack O’Connor.”

Brophy: “In the meantime though, in terms of your position and that of the WRC, are you, regardless of the fact that you’re not going to resign, are you kind of in an invidious position here in that your partiality has been called into question?

Mulvey: “No I don’t accept that and I don’t accept the basis of that and I thought it was a bit disingenuous. Jack O’Connor knows I’m retiring in the first week of June, it was publicly announced on one radio station today, it’s no kept secret. The problem here, you won’t have it after June.”

Listen back in full here

Mulvey says no intention of standing down as Luas dispute escalates (RTE)

Sasko Lazarov/Rollingnews