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Luas drivers show the way-Strike for a real recovery

category national | worker & community struggles and protests | other press author Thursday March 31, 2016 22:41author by 1 of Indymedia Report this post to the editors

By Paul Murphy TD

We are reproducing this article by Paul Murphy TD from the Socialist Party on the Luas strike because of the lack of balanced coverage in the mainstream press even though this was published 5 days ago.

Luas workers, with their 99% vote for strike action and despite the universal hostility of the media, have shown how pay increases can be won. Their action forced the concession of an offer of up to an 18.7% pay rise over three years by Transdev.
image courtsey of Socialist Party
image courtsey of Socialist Party

Attack on conditions

Unfortunately, the devil in the deal is in the detail which has not been publicised. That detail includes the effective lengthening of a 10 year payscale to a 14 year payscale, a reduction in the starting basic pay and the lengthening of the shifts from nine hours to nine hours and 30 minutes. While the Luas drivers would likely accept the pay offer alone, they are understandably unhappy with these conditions which would serve to divide workers in the future.

Joe Carrick, Luas driver shop steward, who participated in the marathon 27 hour talks explained that: “The members are livid about this and rightly so. The way the base rate is being returned to €29k undermines our argument that Luas drivers have not been paid correctly since day one. It’s extremely unfair that whilst 90 drivers would hit the top rate of pay in three years, the rest will have to wait a lot longer.”

Luas drivers are expected to ballot in the next week on this. As the deal stands, it seems likely to be rejected, unless the offending elements are removed.

Profits up, wages down

Much was made in the media of the initial 53% pay claim and even the reduced 27% pay claim – suggesting that it was entirely unreasonable. However, this was a claim for a five year contract. The context is that over the last five years pay increased by only 2.5% despite passenger revenue increasing by 30%, nowhere near keeping up with the skyrocketing of rent and other costs.

This dispute is emblematic of the situation facing workers across the economy. Over the course of the crisis, wages have been reduced, as well as jobs being made significantly more flexible and precarious. The corollary of that is the increase of profits for corporations by over 30% since 2008.

Now that a recovery has been announced, if not felt, workers are looking to experience it by gaining wage increases. That is seen in the news that Dublin Bus and Iarnrod Eireann drivers are now going to seek a similar pay increase.

With Transdev’s response, we saw how viciously corporations can respond to workers organising. While their position in talks was to refuse to countenance pay increases higher than the rate of inflation, in public they suggested if the workers were to ‘moderate’ their demands, they would be willing to compromise.

Solidarity needed

SIPTU then did reduce the pay claim significantly to 27% and Transdev clearly smelt weakness. They reacted to this reduction by refusing to talk to the Luas drivers who make up the bulk of the Luas workforce and prepared to bring in strikebreaking private buses. Luas workers stood firm and therefore forced Transdev to withdraw the threat of buses and to negotiate.

IBEC, the big business representative organisation, rowed in behind Transdev, correctly seeing this dispute as strategically important for big business. They don’t want the floodgates to open for other workers demanding pay increases, eating into the increases in profits won over the course of the crisis. They criticised the strike, saying that workers should seek only “moderate” pay increases – declining to mention the fact that they opposed the extremely “moderate” increase in the minimum wage of 50 cent!

Just as IBEC understood the importance of this dispute from the point of view of big business – it is vital that working people understand the significance of the Luas dispute and other disputes for pay increases. It is in the interests of all workers to see pay rises being granted. A victory can give a real example of what can be achieved when workers take militant action.

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author by Tpublication date Mon Apr 11, 2016 20:23author address author phone Report this post to the editors

For the record here is the press release from RBB on the LUAS workers. It's important that their side of the story gets out as they have been lambasted by the right wing media. This strike is important because they are putting down a marker for all workers.

Media Release- Richard Boyd Barrett TD - 02/04/2016

In a statement, People Before Profit TD, Richard Boyd Barrett has conveyed his party’s full support to the Luas drivers in their battle for proper pay and conditions.

Today People Before Profit will be holding stalls across the country and will visit pickets at the depots in Red Cow and Sandyford in support of the Luas workers.

Richard Boyd Barrett said-

“People Before Profit fully support the Luas drivers in their fight for fairness through strike action this weekend. These drivers are ordinary people who provide a vital public service for the people of Dublin and who have to work in situations, with pedestrians and cars in close proximity to the trams – protecting the safety of millions of passengers and pedestrians every year. Thankfully, due to the diligent work of the Luas drivers, accidents have been at a minimum since the creation of the Luas.

“The Luas drivers have families to raise, mortgages to pay and like other workers have had their real take-home pay slashed under the impact of austerity. What they are looking for, after five years of a pay freeze and crippling austerity taxes, is a 5% per year pay increase over five years- this is entirely reasonable.

“Currently, the Luas drivers’ pay ranges from €33,000 for a 39 hour week in year one and €42,247 after 9 years. I think that their pay claim is quite reasonable when you consider the increased cost of living, taxes and levies which are being imposed on ordinary workers like Luas drivers, nurses, bus drivers, Gardaí etc. The previous government and the current caretaker government have been talking about recovery for a long time now. If we truly are looking at recovery then we must have proper pay restoration for workers across the board. These workers are right to demand a share in the so-called recovery. I would also say well done to the drivers for standing up for new entrants who are being proposed to be paid a lower starting salary for doing the same work. People across the country have rightly expressed outrage when the same two tier pay structure was imposed on new entrant nurses and teachers – it is equally unjust to demand this of new entrant Luas drivers.

“We also must point out that Transdev is a very profitable multinational company. Their revenues are up due to increased passenger number and rising fares. According to the LUAS website, 2015 ‘has been the most successful year for Luas to date in terms of the number of passenger trips. In 2015 the number of Luas passenger trips reached an impressive 34.6 million. This means that an additional 1.99 million or 6.1% more trips were made in 2015 compared to 2014.’ If the company are having difficulties paying wages then I would suggest that their business model is questionable at best.

“The Luas was one of the good things to come out of the Celtic Tiger period. At the moment the company, Transdev and Veolia, are running it into the ground.

“What we need is solidarity from other workers across different sectors in Ireland. People Before Profit believe that a victory for the Luas workers is a victory for all workers because it would represent a huge win for working people who have seen their earnings savaged in recent years and would present an opportunity for other workers to make a stand for the increased pay which they deserve after years of austerity.”


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author by Ordinary Worker - Not Luas Pie in the Skypublication date Wed Apr 20, 2016 23:02author address author phone Report this post to the editors

..go a long way towards explaining the stupidity of the Trots of various hue, and why they will never be capable of having any hand, act or part in actually governing anyone. Keep it up lads!

author by Catherine monaghan - Nonepublication date Sun May 15, 2016 03:02author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Unions are only willing to fight for higher profile cases, irrespective of the validity of the fight. Instead of supporting a bunch of money grabbing luas drivers, who are doing a job a chimp could do, why not concentrate on getting unions into the hospitality industry, where people, mainly young workers, are working their arses off for minimum wage, working unsocial hours; or is that too much like hard work?
Maybe its time to stop paying the Union fatcats their massive salaries for doing fuck all for the thousands of regular workers outside Dublin.

author by Tpublication date Sun May 15, 2016 21:51author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Union leaders as a rule have often dragged their feet and not supported their members frequently over the years collaborating with the employers and state at times and this fact is a constant complaint of the more militant over the years. In the case of the Luas workers the strikes have been driven by the workers themselves and the level of commitment and solidarity has been impressive.

What has happened in the case of the Luas workers is that they have got very bad press from the get go particularly from right-wing outfits like the Irish Independent but also from RTE where you can be sure the right-wing pro neo-liberal forces in the government fear the success of the strike. And one would have to admit that they Luas workers have been very ineffective at getting their own message out. They don't even have their own website nor do they appear to have made any press releases.

The Luas workers have been completely misrepresentated to make out that they are greedy, but they actually looking for modest increase and not double pay as was reported. The double pay refers to the difference between someone newly joining and their final salary after something like 10 or 15 years. In most employments this would be the case anyhow.

What's more instead of being greedy they have been extremely considerate to all their own fellow workers because one of the key issues was that they wanted people newly employed to get the same condition as those who had just recently joined, but instead Transdev was insisting that any new workers would be lower paid than the same entrants today and would have longer hours. So where would you find workers so committed to go on strike so that their fellow workers get the same pay and conditions as when they joined.

The government and right-wing media and pundits have railed on and on about the fact they would be getting more pay than teachers or nurses newly employed but what they don't tell you is that it was this same right-wing neo-liberal government abetted by the same media that forced through lower pay for both new teachers and nurses. They didn't give a damn then about them and they certainly don't now even as they show this fake concern. Not only that the teacher unions unfortunately capitulated to allowing new teachers to receiving lower pay and conditions than new teachers at the time. This is the very thing the Luas workers have been making a stand against.

You stated that the unions should concentrate on getting into the hospitality industry and so forth. Indeed this should be the case but why should it be either or? Also most of the resistance will come from the employers and often they will find tooth and nail by threatening workers with dismissal if they should join. However if this is an burning issue for you then I suggest you contact the appropriate union. Apparently the Independent Workers Union -at are quite good because as it says on their about page:

About the IWU

When one mentions the Trade Union Movement in Ireland, the names of Jim Larkin and James Connolly are always mentioned in the same breath. Why? Because they were there at the beginning of the movement, which changed the lives of many workers and their families in Ireland for the better, when others in society cared little.Now is your opportunity to get involved in this new movement for change, and like Larkin and Connolly, form the very begining. Get involved to the degree that your ideas will actually shape this new Trade Union.

A group of Irish Trade Unionist were convinced that the Trade Union Movement in its present structure in Ireland has lost its way, and had become nothing more than an arm of the state and management. Its function has become more to control workers rather than advance their interests. People had worked for many years to attempt to reform the movement from within, and apart from some minor victories, their efforts have been continuously stifled by the powers that be within the present Trade Union hierarchy. It is now fair to conclude that the existing Trade Unions cannot be reformed for the advance of the Irish worker. Hence the formation of the I.W.U.

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