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Tuesday 6 December 2016

Strike will damage economy, minister warns Luas drivers

Minister Paschal Donohoe (Gareth Chaney/Collins)
Minister Paschal Donohoe (Gareth Chaney/Collins)

Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe has warned that a Luas driver strike will bring hardship to tens of thousands of commuters and cause massive damage to Dublin's economy.

Mr Donohoe urged all involved to find a solution to the problem through "reasonable" negotiation, as drivers pursue a 53pc pay increase.

It comes as Dart drivers announced they would vote on industrial action following changes to train frequencies in the capital.

Dispute

Speaking at the launch of a €50m investment in Bus Eireann services, Mr Donohoe said: "At this stage, with a number of weeks to go before these strikes takes place, this period should be used by everybody who is involved in this dispute to sit down, have reasonable negotiations and make sure these strikes do not happen.

"If [the strikes] do happen, tens of thousands of people are going to be affected each day, for four days, and it will do terrible damage to our economy in Dublin, just as our economy here is now beginning to recover."

The proposed Luas stoppages are expected to take place over four days between February 11 to February 18. There will be two separate 48-hour strikes if the action goes ahead.

It is estimated that 90,000 passengers could be affected per day.

If implemented, the pay hike sought by the drivers could bring their salaries up to €64,000. However, Siptu said the amounts sought would be spread over five years.

Meanwhile, further commuter chaos looms as Dart drivers prepare to vote on industrial action next week. The National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) said strike action would begin on January 31 if Irish Rail went ahead with a new plan to run Dart services every 10 minutes.

The union claims the changes are being brought in with no agreement with staff, adding that there are not enough trained drivers to implement the roster.

"The earliest they would have extra drivers trained is June," said NBRU General Secretary Dermot O'Leary. "This has left us with no option but to ballot our members in response to what would be a major departure from how we would normally address fundamental change at Iarnrod Eireann," he added.

But Irish Rail accused unions of misleading the public by considering a strike, saying existing staff would not be asked to do extra work.

Appalling

Up to 60,000 passengers use the Dart each day, and there was an 8pc growth in passenger numbers last year.

Mr Donohoe also called the image of a young boy riding the windscreen wiper of a Luas "appalling". The photo drew widespread criticism when it circulated on social media this week. "That picture shows that that person is putting themselves at gigantic personal risk," he said. "Alongside that, they are putting passengers and people in the vicinity of that carriage at huge risk."

He added that Luas staff and gardai were taking the matter "very seriously".

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