Luas drivers want 23 extra days off a year
ROW: Passengers could face travel chaos in strike threat
LUAS drivers are demanding 23 extra paid rest days and a one-hour reduction in their shift to eight hours or they will strike.
Chaos for tens of thousands of Dublin commuters looms large after the national executive of SIPTU, the union representing the tram drivers, last night sanctioned the possibility of strike action.
The 165 tram drivers work nine-hour shifts in a seven-day cycle, and currently receive 104 rest days off every year, excluding holidays.
This is the equivalent of every Saturday and Sunday off.
However they are seeking an extra 23 days to "rest" as well as shorter working hours.
Strike notice is expected to be served on the Luas company soon -- but it is not known how the industrial action will take shape.
However, if they do decide to go on strike, action could be seen in three weeks.
Luas company Veolia Transdev says it does not have the funding to meet the drivers' demands.
The company has offered half the extra rest days -- but no reduction in shifts.
Train drivers with Irish Rail work an average of 9.36 hours per shift, get 96 rest days and 23 days annual leave.
Recently the Labour Court introduced a series of recommendations aimed at resolving the dispute.
They recommended that drivers get an extra 10 rest days and the employment of eight extra drivers.
However, the recommendations, which would have cost the company €500,000 a year, were rejected by the drivers.
Some 80,000 commuters use the service every day in Dublin.
The Department of Transport is now urging both sides to discuss the matter further.
"There is dialogue going on between the parties involved," a company source told the Herald last night.
"We've been working on it over the year and it has gone through different channels, and we are where we are now with it. There's been dialogue between the parties."
The source added that the threat of strike relates to rosters and it applies to drivers of the Red Line and the Green Line.
An agreement between Veolia Transdev, the company which run the Luas tram service, and staff union SIPTU in January 2010 removed a 'no-strike' clause which had been in operation for a number of years.
As a result, staff are no longer prohibited from taking industrial action.
The Luas service was the only public transport network to have a 'no-strike' agreement.
But a new collective agreement which was signed by representatives of the tram- operating company Veolia Transdev and local SIPTU chiefs dumped the no-strike clause.
The no-strike clause had been put in place as the company had faced financial penalties for any service disruption.