Small Firms Association claims Luas drivers are 'holding the country to ransom'

Meanwhile, the Minister appeals to Luas unions and management to go to Labour Court

Updated 18.35:

The chairman of the Small Firms Assocation says Luas drivers are holding the country to ransom.

SFA chairman A.J. Noonan told Today FM earlier today the following: "This is holding the country to ransom, vintage union activity. I find it shocking. Employers, employees and customers and old people are going to be discommoded. They're paid quite well, if you look at the general thing. And their 6.5% productivity bonus has been shot out the window by another SIPTU activity. It's pure madness, 54% when inflation is 2%. What continent, or what world, are they living in?"

Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe has called on unions and management to re-engage with the Labour Court in an attempt to avert a Luas strike.

The company that operates the Luas says it could lose up to €100,000 per day if the strike by drivers goes ahead.

Transdev says it cannot afford to pay increases of up to 54%.

But workers demanding the hikes are due to down tools in two 48-hour work stoppages starting tomorrow.

Minister Donohoe says thousands of people will be massively inconvenienced.

"If this action goes ahead as planned significant disruption will be caused to those who have come to depend on Luas to get to work and about their daily business", he said.

"There have already been a number of attempts made to resolve this dispute through the Labour Court and the Workplace Relations Commission, which are the channels through which mediation and resolution are found".

"Strike action does not serve the company, the staff or service users well. I am asking unions and management to re-engage in discussions on the basis of reasonable negotiations so that strike action can be avoided and Luas can continue to serve commuters across our city in the weeks to come", he added.

The strike will begin on Thursday February 11th with normal service resuming at 6.30am on Saturday February 13th.

Luas says 7 Day, 30 Day, Monthly and Annual Luas ticket holders will be eligible for a refund.

Another stoppage is planned for next week - Thursday February 18th and Friday February 19th.

It adds that Luas tickets will not be valid on other public transport services during the strike.

Gerry Madden, managing director of Transdev, told Newstalk Breakfast strikes will cause workers to suffer in the long run.

"We've got a hell of a lot of customers who are going to be seriously disrupted tomorrow by the actions of SIPTU so let me apologise to them first and foremost".

"We're looking at in the region of 70-100,000 people on any given day".

"In terms of revenue for us, we're looking at €100,000 a day - which actually is a very critical number because whatever deal we get to eventually, and we will have to, our financial position is not going to be improved - in terms of a pay award - by these strikes".