High-stake bluffs at Bausch + Lomb

Siptu workers seeking full return to pay and conditions in place before 2014 deal to prevent closure of business

The private sector is also looking to get in on pay restoration – or at least the 1,250 staff at the contact lens and eyecare solutions business Bausch + Lomb in Waterford

The private sector is also looking to get in on pay restoration – or at least the 1,250 staff at the contact lens and eyecare solutions business Bausch + Lomb in Waterford

 

The fashion for pay restoration is spreading. While figures from Friday’s Irish Times poll show there is little public appetite for prioritising pay rises for public servants ahead of much-needed capital investment, the hiring of additional public sector staff or even tax cuts, the eagerly accepted pay deal for gardaí looks to have ensured that the Government will have to cave in to demands from other unions to at least some degree.

Now the private sector is also looking to get in on the act – or at least the 1,250 staff at Canadian-owned contact lens and eyecare solutions business Bausch + Lomb in Waterford.

Having rejected both a three-year deal offering around 7 per cent in pay increases and a two-year offer amounting to around 5 per cent in addition to some other improvements on sick pay, holiday and softening a “starter pay” grade, Siptu workers at the company have decided to press instead for a full return to pay and conditions in place before a 2014 deal to prevent the closure of the business.

That entailed cuts in pay of 7.5 per cent plus the loss of certain other benefits, as well as the departure of around 200 staff.

Strike action

Having consulted quickly with head office, management responded with a demand that a deal be sorted by the end of next week unless the union wanted to see immediate job cuts. And, ominously, it indicated that any continuing disruption into the new year could see harsher measures – with closure of the plant very much the unspoken threat.

It’s a game, if that’s the right word, of double bluff. Quite who will blink first remains to be seen.

With an improving economy, unions are clearly under pressure to claw back previous losses. However, Valeant has had a disastrous year and is currently offloading non-core assets. The arrival of president-elect Donald Trump has only complicated matters further for such firms.

It’s a brave workforce in a high labour cost market that would bet the house on Bausch + Lomb conceding.

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