Transport Minister won't step in to stop Luas drivers striking
Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe has refused to step in to stop the latest Luas strike that will affect up to 180,000 commuters over the next two days.
Staff represented by Siptu took to the picket line today for the third time in just over a week amid a row over pay and conditions.
However, the Fine Gael minister has insisted it is up to the Labour Court, and not him personally, to resolve the dispute.
"As Minister for Transport, what my job is in all of this is to represent the commuter, the taxpayer and the investment that the Government has put in to, for example, projects like bringing the Luas to Cabra and Phibsboro," he said.
"We can only realise the investment if we have reasonable efforts from all involved in this to call off these planned days of strikes."
Luas drivers are demanding a pay hike of up to 54pc, with two further work stoppages planned for March 8 and St Patrick's Day.
Speaking at the launch of the St Patrick's Day Festival 2016, Mr Donohoe blasted the timing of the industrial action, saying it was designed to cause "maximum damage" to the city.
"The timing of the strikes across the period of the St Patrick's Festival is very, very damaging. It's being timed to deliver maximum disruption not only to commuters but to Dublin," he said.
"Everybody is now losing as a result of this. The employees of the company are losing, the employers are losing, Dublin is losing and potentially the St Patrick's Day celebrations are also losing.
"That is why it is really imperative that all sides involved in this engage in the Labour Court or the Workplace Relations Commission on a reasonable basis to make sure that the strikes scheduled for the coming days and for the St Patrick's Festival programme do not go ahead."
Up to 100,000 people from around the world are expected to visit Dublin for the festival, which runs from March 17 to 20.
With highlights including the parade through the heart of the city, the four-day spectacular is expected to bring more than €70m into the country.
It was revealed that the Luas drivers' wages exceed pay rates at many major tram operators in the UK and on the Continent.
Data compiled from figures around Europe shows the drivers' pay of €44,234 is almost twice what a tram driver earns in Blackpool and nearly €10,000 higher than a CIE bus driver at the top end of the scale.
Luas operator Transdev said it cannot afford the pay claim, but is prepared to consider a claim in the region of 1pc to 3pc, similar to what is being paid in other sectors.
It had losses of €700,000 last year and cannot benefit from a hike in fares, as it pays these to the State and gets €100,000 a day to run the service.
In a letter to staff, Luas managing director Gerry Madden warned them they face the loss of four days' pay this month.