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Workers in Waterford to take industrial action on Christmas week over pay restoration claims

Bausch and Lomb workers agreed to a string of cost cutting measures to keep the plant viable in 2014.

Image: James Horan/RollngNews.ie

Updated 4.33pm

SIPTU MEMBERS AT the Bausch and Lomb plant in Waterford have issued notice that they are planning industrial action that will start from 21 December.

The workers’ grievance relates to the failure of management to fully restore pay and conditions of employment.

To ensure the company retained their Waterford site, workers at the plant agreed to a series of cuts in 2014.

Two years ago, the jobs of hundreds of workers at the plant were put at risk after Bausch and Lomb announced that “substantial cost reductions” were required.

“We are now faced with a stark choice; restructure in Waterford and secure its future, or see the plant close,” they said.

The company, which makes contact lenses and lens care products, agreed a deal with Siptu workers in 2014 which saw workers’ salaries fall 7.5%; the elimination of some bonuses; one hour added work per week; a reduction in in the Sick Pay scheme and an improved redundancy package for the 200 workers who were set to lose their jobs.

Faced with their pay not yet being restored, Siptu members at the plant will go on industrial action just before Christmas.

Bausch and Lomb’s parent company, Valeant Pharmaceuticals, however, has said that the union’s ballot followed the rejection of “two carefully considered pay deals proposed by the WRC and the Labour Court”.

“The company views the new request for ‘full restoration’ as a challenge to the viability of the site, and as such, has set out a series of actions that would arise as a direct consequence of the industrial action scheduled to commence on the 21 December,” its statement continued.

The continuation of industrial action into the New Year will lead to the consideration of further actions by the company.

Its position has been made known to 1,250 employees via a letter this morning, a spokesperson confirmed, adding:

While we remain committed to the Waterford site, we will not be considering calls for ‘full restoration’ and a return to the uncertainty of a number of years ago. Our goal is to maintain the viability of the plant and reach a positive resolution of this matter by the 16 December.

“The company will not be making any further public comments at this point. Our primary focus is on speaking to our employees and keeping them fully informed of any new developments.”

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Siptu organiser, Allen Dillon, said: “Our members have decided to implement a campaign of limited industrial action, which will consist of a series of one-hour work stoppages by each shift and an overtime ban.”

Dillon added that its members had “overwhelmingly rejected” a Labour Court recommendation intended to resolve the dispute.

He added that the industrial action was being taken as all other avenues had now been exhausted.

“While Siptu appreciates the work the company has done to invest in the plant and secure its future, it now wants Bausch and Lomb to invest in its people, too.”

Siptu sector organiser, Alan O’Leary, said: “Our members believe that the full restoration of their pay and terms and conditions of employment is what is now required.

The planned industrial action by our members is avoidable and we urge the company to act now and initiate a plan which provides for the full restoration of the pay and terms and conditions of employment of our members.

The union said that it remained available at short notice to directly engage with Bausch and Lomb in an attempt to resolve the dispute.

First published at 3.31pm

Read: Bausch & Lomb staff vote in favour of cost cutting measures

Read: SIPTU has authorised its 60,000 members to ballot on industrial and strike action

About the author:

Sean Murray

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