Luas drivers have been offered cooler bags to keep their lunches fresh in an effort by operator Transdev to avert a row over breaks.

As a result of the introduction of the Luas Cross City Line, drivers can no longer take breaks at the depot in Sandyford where their shift begins. Instead, the drivers have to take their breaks at Broombridge.

There is a canteen facility at the new depot.

The issue affects 12 of 67 drivers during the week and one driver of 12 on Saturday, no drivers are affected on Sunday. Those drivers affected are those who have said they want to continue to take their lunch in Sandyford.

Transdev has provided cooler bags to all drivers for their lunches.

However, Siptu, which represents Luas drivers, has said the change to break arrangements is resulting in an extra cost to drivers as they can no longer bring packed lunches to work.

The union wants drivers to be able to take their lunches at the Sandyford depot where their shifts begin, as was the case before the Cross City Line began last December.

The company estimates that the cost of the change would be €250,000 a year as it would mean hiring five additional drivers so all drivers can take breaks in Sandyford.

As part of the Labour Court recommendations, Transdev is doing an independent risk-assessment on the cooler bags to determine if they are suitable for keeping lunches fresh.

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Siptu's Transport Sector Organiser John Murphy described the cooler bags offer as "a red herring".

Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Miriam, Mr Murphy said it was not about cooler bags, adding that Transdev should have provided proper facilities for drivers for meal breaks from the beginning of the operation of Luas Cross City.

He said facilities on the Green Line were not the same as facilities provided for drivers on the Red Line.

Mr Murphy said this issue arose out of their initial concern of a change in work practice once Luas Cross City came into operation, where drivers on the Green Line would not be able to return to Sandyford for lunch but would instead have to eat at the new depot in Broombridge.

The dispute could not be resolved at local level and it went to the Labour Court in July, a hearing took place on 14 August. At the hearing, Transdev pointed out that there was an agreement in place that precludes any cost in increase in claims.

The union said that if a driver goes to work by car he or she will leave that car at their originating depot and consequently be restricted in their capacity to travel to a shop or other food outlet at the other depot while on a 30-minute break.

The Labour Court said it "would not normally concern itself with the functioning of cooler bags".

However, as it is an ongoing dispute between Transdev and Siptu the court recommended that a risk assessment of the cooler bag is carried out to ensure "it is capable of transporting food safely from one depot to another".

Transdev said it has accepted the court's recommendations.

Mr Murphy said Siptu will consider the Labour Court recommendations but the row has the potential to result in strike action.