Luas workers have said they have no option but to strike in a two-day stoppage that will disrupt 180,000 tram users in Dublin from Thursday morning.
Amid calls for last-ditch talks to avert the industrial action, trade union Siptu attacked Transdev, operators of the light rail, accusing management of refusing to offer anything other than inflation rate pay rises.
Workers’ representatives, who have been championing salary hikes of 8% to 53%, claim pay scales mean drivers can work for nine years and hit a salary of 42,247 euro or 47,941 euro for traffic supervisors.
Siptu organiser John Murphy said the workers were conscious of the inconvenience the strike would have on commuters, school children and other passengers.
“Our members are very disappointed at the approach of management in this dispute. The company has failed to show any initiative in the effort to find an agreed resolution in talks in various forums over the last 18 months,” he said.
“Management representatives have instead merely continued to reiterate the position that our members cannot expect to receive pay rises over the next five years and that any rise that might be granted would be limited to an increase in the Consumer Price Index.”
Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe urged talks but said he has no power to offer Transdev more money to meet the demands for pay rises.
A repeat two-day strike is already planned for next week, on February 18-19.
“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,” Mr Donohoe said.
Negotiations have previously broken down following hearings at the Labour Court and the Workplace Relations Commission.
Mr Donohoe hit out at the planned industrial action, which has the support of 99% of drivers, traffic supervisors, revenue protection officers and supervisors in the Siptu trade union.
“Strike action does not serve the company, the staff or service users well,” the minister said.
“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.”
Luas union representatives claim the company pay scales mean drivers can work for nine years and hit a salary of 42,247 euro compared with 47,941 euro for traffic supervisors.
They claim the operators are returning profits each year and have asked for 10,000 euro pay rises for traffic supervisors, increases of 10% to 14% for the revenue protection officers and supervisors who check tickets, and hikes for the 172 drivers which would take their top level of pay to 64,993 euro.
Transdev said the claims would cost the company more than 20 million euro over five years.
It is planning for normal service to resume at 6.30am on Saturday morning and apologised to customers for the inconvenience.