As Socialist Worker goes to press the Luas pay fight has entered a crucial phase. After a series of magnificent one and two day stoppages drivers are set to escalate their fight as management continue to ignore their demands or even negotiate any pay rise outside of productivity deals or general inflation.
Drivers’ wages have stagnated for years while increased passenger numbers and new rosters for extended services and routes have seen large increases in Transdev revenues. While the company continues to play the poor mouth and points to a slight loss in last year’s profits this is largely an accountancy fiction and resulted from changes in how its accounts were audited and how its relationship with the Railway Procurement Agency(RPA) is recorded.
In 2014 profits were €1.39m while they also paid a dividend to their French parent company of over €2.8 million between 2013/14.
Transdev’s Gerry Madden has taken a tough stance in public, refusing to negotiate any pay rise outside of a general productivity deal. One LUAS driver told SW he is trying to grind down the various grades at the negotiations, pretending to give one grade some crumbs, but really conceding nothing.
However drivers should not be fooled; Madden and Transdev are feeling the heat after the stoppages. While the media have predictably rowed in with management it is also clear that the threat of an all-out strike and the continued mood of resistance among drivers has management rattled.
This partially explains Maddens attempt to operate a scab service with private coaches on Patrick’s Day. Madden had initially dismissed the importance of Patrick’s day and the two strike days over the Easter by announcing “they are of no commercial concern to us”.
However his tune has changed since and he now paints the scab operation as an attempt to save the day for “families and children”. At the time of going to print ,Socialist Worker is uncertain if this blatant strike breaking operation will actual be attempted. If it does, all trade unionists should support the LUAS driver’s strike and attend a solidarity picket where these scab buses are operating.
This is an attempt to break the spirit of the strikers and set a precedent that Transdev and other transport operators can use. Scandalously the scabbing operation must have been sanctioned by the Government t agency, the NTA (National Transport Agency). The NTA must licence any public transport service and thus this attempted to break an official strike has to have been sanctioned at senior level at the department of Transport.
This has enormous implication s for Dublin Bus, Bus Eireann and DART workers, all of whom have separate pay disputes looming this year. The NTA is a neoliberal agency committed to competition and driving workers bargaining positions down. If it succeeds in undermining the LUAS workers’ fight it will bring these tactics to all future transport disputes. This is why all CIE workers should stand together with their LUAS colleagues in the weeks ahead.
More generally the clear attempt to break the strike shows the importance of this pay dispute to all workers. Employers and the Government are frightened that an example of a successful pay dispute might inspire thousands of other workers who have suffered from the last decade of austerity, stagnant wages and stealth tax rises. The LUAS workers’ fight is a crucial battle for all workers.