Luas operator suspends sick pay for all drivers

Union says move amounts to escalation of long-running dispute

Gerry Madden. Image: RollingNews.ie

Gerry Madden. Image: RollingNews.ie

Luas operator Transdev has suspended sick pay for all drivers at the Dublin tram service.

The company told SIPTU on Friday that it would not be processing any regular sick payments in the May payroll and thereafter due to high levels of absence.

In a letter to the trade union, seen by Newstalk.com, Transdev managing director Gerry Madden said the absence rate for drivers had reached 12%, compared to a figure of 4.5% for 2015.

“This level of absence is imposing significant additional costs on the company and is highly disruptive to our customers,” he wrote.

Mr Madden said the company was “invoking its right” to suspension under a collective agreement allowing for sick pay to be withheld from individuals once absence levels exceed 4%.

He added that the situation would not apply to staff suffering from a critical illness, as determined by the company doctor.

“Once absence rates for drivers return to normal levels, the company will discuss the reintroduction of sick pay scheme arrangements for all individual drivers,” he wrote.

In an interview with Newstalk, Mr Madden said the ongoing row over pay was badly affecting the company, and that their "financial situation is pretty grim".

'Dubious'

SIPTU organiser Owen Reidy said he viewed the move as an escalation of the dispute between drivers and management.

Mr Reidy told Newstalk.com that the union accepted that sick pay schemes should not be abused.

However, he said it was unfair that Transdev had taken “punitive action” by unilaterally and retrospectively suspending payments for all drivers.

Mr Reidy said he understood union representatives are also “dubious” about absence rates quoted by the company.

“You can’t tar everyone with the same brush. It pours fuel on the fire and makes outstanding issues more difficult to resolve,” he added.

Instead, he said, the company should have sat down with the union to work together on addressing any perceived problem with absence rates.

The Luas driver grade remains locked in dispute with Transdev over pay and conditions. Three other staff grades reached a deal with the company last month.

Further work stoppages are scheduled for May 20th, May 26th, May 27th, June 2nd, June 3rd, June 7th, June 8th, June 9th and June 10th.