Between The Lines

at

Screen Shot 2016-05-16 at 10.50.50

XNhu8gBh_400x400

From top: Luas drivers Neil MacDonnell and Alan Kavanagh at the picket line at the Sandyford Luas Depot last week; Glenn Fitzpatrick

Luas drivers plan to strike for full days on Friday, May 20 and Friday, May 27.

They also plan to hold four-hour stoppages on Thursday, May 26;  and on June 2, 3, 7, 8, 9 and 10.

Further to this…

Glenn Fitzpatrick, of The Young Celts, writes:

If you landed on planet earth last week for the very first time and picked up a newspaper, you might be inclined to think that the workers who operate the LUAS trams were responsible for the economic woes of the entire country.

The vitriol, of which they’ve been on the receiving end, has ticked almost all of the boxes.

There have been calls from respected, supposedly middle-of-the-road journalists to take a leaf from Ronald Reagan’s book and simply ‘sack them all’ or ‘bring in the army to drive the trams’ while the entire business community has been rolled out to accuse them of putting a nation’s economic recovery at risk.

I’m not going to get into a back and forth about the legitimacy of the pay claim lodged by SIPTU, on behalf of the drivers.

I believe in fruitful industrial relations processes that lead to compromise and which avoid strike action 99% of the time.

Their starting point of seeking increases of up to 52% has received much criticism.

None of this of course is nuanced or considerate of the fact that these claims are usually inclusive of other terms of employment, such as pay levels for new entrants and access to maternity leave.

Everyone has become an industrial relations correspondent over the last few months. Everyone has an opinion on just how much a LUAS driver is entitled to earn, the level of skill required to operate a tram and the gross unfairness of the situation, relative to the earnings of doctors, nurses and the Gardai.

Of course given the accelerated nature of discourse, particularly on Twitter and Facebook, everyone feels that their opinion should count for something.

Somewhat oddly, I don’t recall the same people standing up for the pay of Gardaí and nurses when it was on the chopping board in 2010.

Of course, if Transdev had any interest from the beginning in entering a fruitful industrial relations process, the public would have continued with their lives largely unaware of anything.

Negotiations involve both sides getting to ‘Yes’. These conversations belong at a negotiating table (with a mediator if needs be).

They do not belong on the airwaves, in the newspapers or on Twitter.

Unfortunately, this transnational company (which has a turnover of €Bns) never had any interest in entertaining a fruitful industrial relations process.

Instead, they opted to side-step our weak legislation on workers’ rights and collective bargaining, threw the baby out of the bathwater and commenced a media war instead – knowing full well that once they did that, the rest would inevitably look after itself.

When it comes to playing out a media war, some will point out that Union spokespeople get invited onto the airwaves to give their side of the story.

Others will point at out that the narrative has to be fair to commuters who have been affected by the dispute.

There is an element of truth to both of these notions – just an element. Unfortunately throughout this whole saga, voices in support of the dispute appear against a primary definition of the issue by the employer, someone from the Dublin Chamber, IBEC etc.

Suggesting that the coverage of the dispute has been fair to both sides is like saying a schoolyard fight between four bullies and one victim is acceptable grounds for a scrap, purely because the victim has a pair of fists.

It is hard to find one LUAS related story that does not frame it as a disruption to commuters. We’ve all heard at this stage about how the drivers are ‘holding commuters to ransom’.

This amounts to gross hyperbole.

All you have to do, to see through this tripe, is look at two simple statistics; Ireland is terrible at strategic public transport. One quarter of people who use public transport in Ireland use it for travelling to college or work – this is the second lowest usage in the EU.

Further to this, the LUAS lines make up for about 20% of Dublin’s daily commuters. People found ways in and out of the city before the LUAS existed and strike days are always accompanied by sufficient notice to make alternative arrangements.

So sorry, Sean, from the Aran Islands, no one is holding you to ransom.

Naturally, it has never been factored into the media’s framing of the dispute that 52% was actually a starting point for negotiations.

Imagine your Union representative’s starting point being the compromised position? Set your sights that low and you’ll never be disappointed. The media also opted to omit the fact that we have pretty regressive laws when it comes to collective bargaining and trade union recognition.

Under more robust laws, employers would be obliged to sit down and talk, regardless of what the employees’ starting point for talks is. So before you go off on one and say how you’ve read all the facts, it is worth bearing in mind that what the media chooses not to highlight is often as, if not more important, to the narrative.

Most of the media outlets used to carry industrial relations correspondents. Most disputes are now under the banner of ‘business and industry’.

No profit-driven news outlet is going to upset their advertisers by running an information campaign about how the right to strike is sacrosanct and a pillar of any democratic society. So perhaps it is not all that surprising that a lot of commentary has a smell of fascism off it.

One of the great illusions of our day is that it is natural for people to think that the media reflects the general will of society at large. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Yes, we have some excellent journalists and I don’t want to tar them all with the same brush but ultimately, the entire media spectrum is dominated by consumer interests.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that Brexit is almost entirely an economic issue, given that it seems to only be the place of finance and business interests to comment.

On everything from decent work to housing provision, those who seek to extract as much profit from society as possible get to define the issue. Alternative voices exist but ultimately, the weighting is so heavy against them that they become lost.

Some would argue that, regardless of how skewed the narrative is, media doesn’t possess the power to control what we think. Of course it doesn’t. I’m not suggesting that.

However, it’s naïve to look at the economics of media ownership and to think that it doesn’t cultivate how we think. The parameters for which debate can take place are shaped and perhaps the biggest mark of naivety of all is to think that the interests of consumer media and a transnational corporation are aligned with those of society at large.

This is how soft power works and while this is certainly at the extreme end of things, this is how the vast majority of transport disputes are framed. Before a member of the picket line could even get a word in edgeways, the consumer media kicked into gear and did what it always does.

What resulted was a chilling effect on solidarity and a level of dehumanisation that no cohort of workers should ever have to go through.

Unfortunately, opinion polls that are only ever going to get one answer are plentiful and this is what outlets consider journalism, rather than meaningful contributions to this saga such as distinguishing between a starting salary and the top end of a scale.

I suppose the latter doesn’t sell papers or gather clicks.

I suspect many may have stopped reading by now but for those of you inclined to support the drivers, for those of you who understand that a domino effect on wage rises would be a good thing, for those of you who think that workers should be able to ask for a bigger slice of the pie, we need to do more.

As of this morning, parties that seek to court the union man/woman’s vote that have come out in support of the Luas workers are Sinn Féin, AAA-PBP and most recently, the Social Democrats.

The silence from ‘Connolly’s party’ is absolutely damning in the wake of them latching on to his legacy once more but, at this stage, it is not surprising.

Attempts are now being made by those who have no time for workers’ rights campaigns to apply selective solidarity to trade disputes, suggesting that the Tesco workers are worthy of our sympathies but the Luas drivers are not.

This could soon become a political question for the trade unions and workers nationwide.

The Young Celts

Related: Luas operator Transdev suspends sick pay scheme (RTE)

Previously: Luas Across City

My Generation

Sam Boal/Rollingnews

Sponsored Link

93 thoughts on “Between The Lines

  1. Owen C

    “Of course, if Transdev had any interest from the beginning in entering a fruitful industrial relations process, the public would have continued with their lives largely unaware of anything.

    Negotiations involve both sides getting to ‘Yes’. These conversations belong at a negotiating table (with a mediator if needs be).”

    Transdev went to the WRC. They came to an agreement at that venue which was recommended by SIPTU to their workers/members. The workers/members decided to turn this down. This repeated suggestion that Transdev were unwilling to negotiate needs to be called out for the blatant lie that it is.

  2. MoyestWithExcitement

    *applause*

    Of course you’re still going to get people propagating lies like the poster above but that was excellent.

      1. MoyestWithExcitement

        You have cited Transdev being forced into the wrc after months of strike action as proof they’ve always been keen to engage with the drivers. That is an out and out lie.

        1. Ronan

          Forced in after months of strike action? That deal was tabled in March, very early in this timeline.

          Transdev have engaged with other worker grades, and have come to an agreement without the need for strike action. As such they have shown their bona fide willingness to negotiate.

          The issue here is that the drivers want to increase their income:
          – relative to other Luas workers
          – relative to other transport workers
          and are claiming its on behalf of workers everywhere, and not just themselves.

          They aren’t being vilified, they’re doing a very good job of showing themselves up and people are making up their own mind.

        2. Owen C

          “You have cited Transdev being forced into the wrc after months of strike action”

          I said they already went to the WRC. At the very start of this. Why would there even be a need to “force” them to go to something they voluntarily went to?

          1. MoyestWithExcitement

            Uh huh. They went to the wrc after months of strike action. You used that as a counterpoint to the statement that they were unwilling to negotiate. That is either stupid or dishonest.

          2. MoyestWithExcitement

            “That deal was tabled in March, very early in this timeline.”

            The strike has been brewing since last year. Transdev refused to speak to drivers initially.

            “They aren’t being vilified,”

            They very much are. Everyone was talking about 50% at the beginning. That was a lie that spread to make them look unreasonable; vilifying them.

          3. Owen C

            They went to the WRC. They negotiated a deal which SIPTU recommended to staff. The staff rejected that deal. This was a process of negotiation entered into voluntarily by Transdev. These are all facts.

          4. Ronan

            So they … didn’t … make a 53% pay claim initially?

            Ok my bad, I must have dreamed that. Or else the meeja made it up to make them look bad.

          5. MoyestWithExcitement

            There was only a strike to begin with because Transdev refused to speak to staff. That is a fact. Their WRC offer involved patting new staff less money. That is a fact.

          6. MoyestWithExcitement

            “Ok my bad, I must have dreamed that. Or else the meeja made it up to make them look bad.”

            Yep.

          7. Owen C

            They shouldn’t be patting anyone in fairness. Thats just weird.

            The Transdev proposal was turned down because of the entry level staff element yes. Also the fact that the existing staff wanted more money than what Transdev were offering. This is correct, yes?

            “There was only a strike to begin with because Transdev refused to speak to staff”

            Thats also completely false btw. They’ve been talking since last summer. Including at the Labour Court.

            http://www.independent.ie/irish-news/news/42k-luas-drivers-seeking-40pc-pay-increase-31569670.html

          8. MoyestWithExcitement

            I’m not sure you know let what the labour court is. That was genuinely funny. If you’re going to spread lies, it helps to know what you’re talking about. Good man.

          9. Owen C

            Well expose the lies please? Tell us how going to the Labour court did not involve the two sides talking about the issue?

        3. MoyestWithExcitement

          Please give me other examples of two parties who are willing to talk each other needing a court to mediate.

          1. Owen C

            Its not a court of law. You appear before it voluntarily. Its findings (in regard to industrial disputes) are non binding recommendations. It is used to mediate. You’re aware of this, correct? Because you sound like you don’t actually have a clue what its purpose is.

          2. Owen C

            Wow, you actually didn’t know what the purpose of the Labour Court was? I was only joking about that part. But you actually are an idiot.

  3. Guy Bague

    This guy doesn’t know the facts. I doubt he’s even a Luas user.

    Typical “millennial” BS.

    1. Grouse

      Why would a LUAS user be in possession of the facts?

      You’re not very long in the tooth yourself if you think valuing unions is a millennial characteristic.

        1. Dόn 'The Unstoppable Force' Pídgéόní

          If only you had used skinny-jean wearing hipster in there somewhere….

          Not angry, just disappointed

          1. Dόn 'The Unstoppable Force' Pídgéόní

            Don’t you bring your booshwash around here, you off the cob skin tickler!

  4. Drogg

    Fupp right off with yer mealy mouthed sympathy they are not worth the money they currently get and the disruption to transport in the city is massive so go sit on a spiked pole if you think people have any sympathy. No worker in Ireland would currently turn down a 13% pay increase they are greedy and the only people they are hurting are the commuters. If they wanted to effect transdev they should run the luas but turn off the ticket machines and not take tickets.

    1. Ronan

      While I don’t support the drivers, they can’t quite do that, to be fair. Revenue protection is the responsibility of another grade, who have signed up for their 13%.

  5. Owen C

    “Under more robust laws, employers would be obliged to sit down and talk,”

    They did. WRC. See above.

    “The media also opted to omit the fact that we have pretty regressive laws when it comes to collective bargaining and trade union recognition.”

    SIPTU has a contractual monopoly on Trade Union recognition with Transdev.

    “So before you go off on one and say how you’ve read all the facts,”

    Hilarious.

    “On everything from decent work to housing provision, those who seek to extract as much profit from society as possible get to define the issue. Alternative voices exist but ultimately, the weighting is so heavy against them that they become lost.”

    Are you even aware of how people voted in the recent elections??

    “When it comes to playing out a media war, some will point out that Union spokespeople get invited onto the airwaves to give their side of the story. Others will point at out that the narrative has to be fair to commuters who have been affected by the dispute.”

    Has the author of this drivel ever thought that profit-driven media may frame the narrative for the 90,000 commuters who use the Luas every day and are impacted by the strike rather than the 240 staff who work for Transdev? Its not exactly rocket science. Honestly, this is even worse than the Merceille crap we have to put up with every Monday.

  6. Fully Keen

    Argumentative professional debater seeks same, GSOH. Likes cats. And skinny jeans.

    1. Medium Sized C

      The UK is a different country.
      It has has a different economy.
      The cost of living is generally lower in the UK than in Ireland. People in London are generally paid better than in other parts of the country on account of the higher cost of living in the capital yet the same is not true for Dublin.

      The comparison is reductive and kind of useless.

      1. Joan Burton

        Dublin is certainly not london.

        So every semi skilled worker in Dublin with a leaving cert should be on 50k ?

    2. Dόn 'The Unstoppable Force' Pídgéόní

      Trams in the UK aren’t in London so that income makes sense really. But they are also threatened strike action before pay and benefits were negotiated with their owners so not sure what the point of this comment is?

  7. Cata

    Luas needs to be nationalised fully. The workers should be supported. Luas should be a social service, not a profit machine.

      1. MoyestWithExcitement

        I assume the poster thinks it’ll be paid for similarly to CIE. The point of nationalising an industry is to ensure its existence even if it’s not profitable.

        1. Clampers Outside!

          It would never have been built if there was no private money invested in it. That needs to be paid off does it not…. maybe it is already… if it is, then I’d see your point. If it’s not there’s no point talking about nationalisation yet.

          1. MoyestWithExcitement

            Paid off? They tendered for a contract. They won €150 million of taxpayer money a year ago. They are being paid to manage the service. We are doing them a favour, not the other way around. They are in it purely for profit. If they owned it outright and the red line, for instance, was losing money, the red line sees a reduced service or goes entirely.

  8. fluffybiscuits

    Im shocked that me and Drogg are on the same side as Owen C in this case..

    I back the drivers getting a payrise but the strikes are beginning to make a mockery of everything. They had my support up to a point…

  9. Paul Murphy TD

    Glenn you spent all week on twitter slashing left parties for not standing at near empty roundabouts shouting solidarity & now that left parties are getting more vocal you slate them for courting votes. What party are you part of & what makes you so special to be indifferent from it all?

    1. Ronan

      Gasp! Paul Murphy on Broadsheet!

      It’s like seeing your favorite adult film star on chaturbate

      1. Paul Murphy TD

        Ill organise a protest outside your gaf if your not careful Ronan, I keep two things in my solidarity hatchback. Firstly I keep a megaphone so nobody can not listen to me, I also keep a copy of Monty Python’s Life of Brian on VHS.

  10. Brian S

    TL;DR

    Im a communist and a moron

    move along, nothing to see here apart from utter drivel

    1. Dόn 'The Unstoppable Force' Pídgéόní

      Careful or they’ll post another LJG video just to annoy you

        1. Dόn 'The Unstoppable Force' Pídgéόní

          It was only a matter of time Starina, none of us can hold back the tide of more inadequate #content from that idiot

  11. dav

    the journalistic narrative in this dispute is that “luas drivers don’t deserve the wages that they earn and they certainly don’t deserve any increase in those wages”. No doubt they will soon be advocating the removal of the right to strike from workers, cause were nothing more than economic units now..

  12. Bobby

    “Everyone has become an industrial relations correspondent over the last few months”

    And here comes Glenn Fitzpatrick to add to the list.

    1. mildred st. meadowlark

      Had the same thoughts myself.

      Nice to see him adding something factual, well-reasoned to the debate too.

    2. Paul Murphy TD

      Actually this is an opinion piece, he’s referring to people who arent industrial relations correspondent’s being industrial relations correspondent’s when it comes to covering all things Luas. Viva la revolution pal

  13. ironcorona

    I didn’t understand this part:
    “Ireland is terrible at strategic public transport. “One quarter of people who use public transport in Ireland use it for travelling to college or work””

    Is it that if the public transport was better a greater proportion of the users would use public transport for getting to work?

    1. Paul Murphy TD

      Exactly, if you read the next sentence he highlights how bad we do compared to europe

      1. Medium Sized C

        Of course this would all suggest that uptake is only down to provision, which is stupidly reductive.
        Lots of people have access to great public transport and still drive.

    1. Don Key Don G

      He’s that student leader guy, posted a bit of stuff here before. This wasn’t too bad though in fairness

    2. J

      Glenn uses “of course” . Julien uses “for example”. Both have good hair.
      Meanwhile,the Pied Piper of the deluded ( aka Bodger) enjoys his 99 in the sun.
      Monday chez BS
      The End.

  14. Clampers Outside!

    The whole piece moans about media not giving a fair light to the strikers side. yet makes no effort to do so itself… that’s perplexing in fairness.

    There’s no attempt to explain the strikers side in this piece. Why waste the, this, platform you’ve been given… why is there no effort in this piece to put the case forward for the strikers? The piece goes on to say we’ve all been hoodwinked into dissing on these Luas drivers… but doesn’t bother to explain the demands in a manner that is not ‘hood winking’ anyone.

    The piece is a remedial effort to study the media’s portrayal of the strikes. Completely ignoring the public’s “GASP!” factor of a 52% increase (whether a negotiating start point or not) means you are doing exactly what you accuse the media of.

    Yet you are trying to garner sympathy for the cause by bemoaning the media coverage…..

    Are yiz OK lad?

    Yours Sincerely
    A.L. Puller

  15. Tish Mahorey

    It’s a Global Civi War between the majority of people and the few who control finance and media (and their willing lackies).

  16. Tish Mahorey

    The distractions of national borders and national identities, tend to make people think that their fight is against their own government but the truth is, the fight for decent living wages and workers rights is a global one and their government is just the local agent of international merchant banking and their corporate clients.

    The average income of everyone from unskilled workers to professionals is on the downward trend and the income of rentiers and speculators is sky rocketing.

    THAT is the divide. And most newspapers and TV is controlled by the super wealthy who use it to lie to you and mislead you every single day.

    Only in the internet gives people hope of finding out the truth of what goes on.

  17. some old queen

    One question nobody seems to be asking is why there is a need for a private operator on the Luas at all. Transdev(Veolia) make a sizeable profit which comes from every fare you and I pay. In what way are they running this system that others cannot do? Would that profit not be better in Government coffers rather than being siphoned off by a multinational?

    And lower fares too maybe?

    1. MoyestWithExcitement

      FG seem to be following the Reganite philosophy of government being a bad thing; that for profit businesses know what they’re doing so should be entrusted with the management of services. This is either monumentally stupid ideology or it’s out and out corruption.

    2. Owen C

      because CIE was never the most dynamic or efficient organisation on the planet and was viewed as beholden to the union demands. I’m not getting into a debate about whether this is 100% true or just partially, but thats the view. So the idea was that a private operator would hopefully run the Luas service better (for both commuters as well the company running it) than a public sector outfit would, and all the risks of cost overruns in running the service would be bourne by the private sector. And in fairness, the Luas service has been excellent in my experience. I have also been a long time user of the Dart (20 years or so) and am a big fan of it, but the technical faults (breakdowns and points delays) happens too often, and the union-demanded stop at Clontarf Road is also irritating. Pricing on intercity rail is ridiculously high vs other countries in my experience.

    3. Andy

      Transdev get €0.00 (that’s ZERO) from the ticket price.

      Nothing, nada, not a thing. They’re a servicer who get paid a fixed fee.

  18. Jake38

    “……….What resulted was a chilling effect on solidarity and a level of dehumanisation that no cohort of workers should ever have to go through.”

    I’m sure they’ll recover.

  19. pedeyw

    I massively distrust Transdev. The 10% paycut they imposed on drivers hasn’t got a lot of coverage.

  20. Phil

    For all the talk about media hyperbole, some of which may be indeed justified, the OP has not left me any the wiser about what the luas drivers actually want.

    So just more hyperbole, this time from the other side

Comments are closed.

Sponsored Link
Broadsheet.ie