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Dublin: 2 °C Wednesday 26 November, 2014

Marks & Spencer staff to strike next Saturday

The staff are angered at the closing of their pension scheme.

Image: Photocall Ireland

Updated 20.00pm

THE STAFF AT Marks & Spencer have voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action.

The strike will see the company’s 17 stores nationwide close next Saturday, 7 December, with two further days planned on 12 December and 20 December.

The workers are angered by the closure of the staff pension scheme, a move they were opposed to.

SIPTU said this evening that members employed in M&S have voted in favour of industrial action by 97.5 per cent to 2.5 per cent in favour of strike action.

The union represents approximately 140 workers employed in Marks & Spencer stores across the Dublin area.

Mandate trade union, which represents the majority of the 2,300 staff at the stores, earlier stated that they have written to management to serve notice of the strike.

Mandate assistant general secretary Gerry Light says that the decision to close the pension fund, along with other cost-saving measures are “opportunistic”.

“While we fully recognise that some employers in the retail sector are struggling and that Marks & Spencer, like many, are operating with reduced profits, the company have given their workers absolutely no satisfactory proof that the permanent withdrawal of terms and conditions of employment is necessary or justified.”

The company closed the defined benefit pension scheme on 31 October. The scheme is performing, with a surplus of €17 million.

Cost-cutting measures included a reduction in managers, a reduction in Sunday and public holiday pay and the elimination of the Christmas bonus.

Light added that workers feel that the company has “breached the trust” of the staff. He added that the union would discuss the situation but only “without unilateral implementation” of decisions.

Our members feel there’s been a fundamental breach of trust by senior management. We’ve been given limited access to the company’s financial accounts and as Marks & Spencer are another multinational company which does not reveal accounts for their Irish business, we and our members are left at a distinct disadvantage whereby we cannot contextualise the viability of the cost saving proposals.

The company says they have done all they can to avert the strike.

“M&S has done all it can to try and move this situation forward so we are extremely disappointed that the company has been given notice that strike action has been called. We are fully prepared to reopen talks at any time either locally or at the Labour Relations Commission in order to avoid the impact on our customers and employees in the run up to Christmas.”

Siptu Organiser, Neil McGowan said:

There was  no meaningful discussion with union representatives in relation to the closure of the pension scheme, with management taking the view that the scheme is a ‘discretionary benefit’.

The company has failed to provide  satisfactory evidence to support its claims in relation to the pension scheme and cuts to other benefits. These include plans to cut workers’ premiums and Christmas bonus.

Additional reporting by Christina Finn

Read: No resolution in sight as ESB workers serve strike notice

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