Marks & Spencer staff vote for industrial action

Employees at 17 stores nationwide to strike on Saturday December 7th

Marks & Spencer employees in Ireland have voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action in the run up to Christmas. Photo: Bloomberg

Marks & Spencer employees in Ireland have voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action in the run up to Christmas. Photo: Bloomberg

Fri, Nov 29, 2013, 15:34

Marks & Spencer employees in Ireland have voted overwhelmingly in favour of industrial action following the closure of their pension scheme without agreement.

The workers voted by a margin of 94 per cent in favour of strike action in the run up to Christmas.

Mandate trade union, which represents the vast majority of the company’s 2,300 staff, has written to management informing them strike action will take place across 17 stores on Saturday, December 7th.

Two further days of strike action are also planned in the run up to Christmas.

According to the trade union, Marks & Spencer management closed the workers’ defined benefit pension scheme on October 31st without agreement, informing the workers that their retirement fund is a “discretionary benefit”.

The trade union said that announcement was also accompanied by a cost-saving drive involving a reduction in the number of section managers, a reduction in Sunday and public holiday shift premiums for staff and the removal of the Christmas bonus.

Mandate assistant general secretary Gerry Light said unlike other defined benefit schemes, the Marks & Spencer scheme is performing and is in surplus to the tune of approximately €17 million.

He said the union has traditionally had a good relationship with Marks & Spencer, but in recent months the retailer had made many decisions which are “baffling and shocking”.

“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,” he added.

An M&S spokesperson said: “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.”