Pfizer pension talks begin at Workplace Relations Commission
Siptu last week deferred industrial action at pharma firm in anticipation of discussions
Pfizer accepted a request by the Workplace Relations Commission not to take any immediate action in relation to pension changes for some 900 workers. Photograph: iStock
Talks aimed at averting planned strikes by staff at the Pfizer pharmaceutical plants in Ringaskiddy and Little Island in Cork over proposed pension changes have commenced at the Workplace Relations Commission.
The trade union Siptu, which represents the staff concerned, had last week deferred planned work stoppages to allow the new talks to take place.
Siptu had been scheduled to hold a 24-hour industrial action at the Ringaskiddy plant last Friday with the dispute due to escalate on Monday of this week with the strike extended to the Little Island facility for a further 24-hour stoppage .
The union had also planned to put in place an indefinite overtime ban from February 16th in both plants.
Pfizer had accepted a request by the Workplace Relations Commission not to take any immediate action in relation to pension changes for some 900 employees pending the new round of talks.
The union maintained the decision to take industrial action followed the unilateral move by Pfizer management to move from a non-contributory defined benefit pension scheme to a defined contribution pension from April 1st next without agreement.
Staff at the company had in January rejected overwhelmingly a Labour Court recommendation in relation to changes to the existing pension arrangements.
Siptu argued that its members could not understand why Pfizer Ireland management had sought to change their existing pension benefits while at the same time allowing its employees in other EU countries to remain in a defined benefit scheme.
Pfizer maintained that the replacement of non-contributory defined benefit pension schemes would be for future accrual only, and that the company would continue to fund the existing schemes in accordance with its obligations.
The company argued that defined benefit schemes, which remained open to accrual were increasingly rare, and that the cost of funding such schemes has risen 1,000 per cent since 2009. It maintained that such an increase in cost was not sustainable and the volatility of the schemes posed a challenge for the company.