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Irish Pfizer employees to launch industrial action ballot over pensions scheme

Published on 24/01/19 at 09:55am

Pfizer employees have rejected a Labour Court recommendation regarding their pension scheme, opting to initiate a ballot over potential industrial action instead.

As many as 900 workers at Pfizer’s operations in Ireland will take part in the ballot which will determine what happens next.

The decision comes after Pfizer sought to switch 900 of its employees from pension schemes that offer workers a proportion of their salary on retirement to a new plan which would not offer this guarantee.  

The Labour Court recommended that Pfizer pay employees up to €35,000 in compensation for freezing the salary linked pension plan.

Staff at Pfizer’s Ringaskiddy and Little Island plants in Co Cork, along with a small number of employees in Dublin, “overwhelmingly” rejected the Labour Court’s recommendations, as it was suggested that the decision was almost unanimous.

SIPTU union leader Alan O’Leary commented: “Our members have reminded the company that a joint union/management collective agreement remains in place until a new collective agreement is reached. Until then, any alteration or amendment to our members' existing DB pension scheme will not be tolerated”

Pfizer commented, stating that it was “disappointed that the unions have balloted and rejected the Labour Court recommendation.”

A spokesperson claimed that: “The cost to the company of funding the defined benefit schemes has risen 1000 per cent since 2009 and these costs are affecting the competitiveness of Irish operations.”

Labour union SIPTU argued that the scheme was an integral part of the company’s union agreement.

O’Leary previously explained the union’s position in 2017: “New employees should be treated in the same manner as existing ones. When they commenced their employment, new workers at the Pfizer Plant in Ringaskiddy should have started on the same defined benefit scheme as their colleagues. This should always be the situation unless there is agreement between workers and management on any possible changes.”

The sector organiser further accused Pfizer of misleading the public: “It is disingenuous and totally inaccurate of Pfizer management to claim, as it did in a recent newspaper article, that the recommendation supports ‘moving away’ from the defined benefit scheme”

He added that; “in other EU countries, such as Belgium, Pfizer workers have been allowed the right to voluntarily stay in the DB pension scheme or opt out to migrate to a defined contribution scheme.”

Louis Goss

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