Pfizer staff vote to strike, snubbing Labour Court recommendations

Pharmaceutical giant workers unlikely to win public support over high-end pensions

The 900 workers involved in the stand off with Pfizer are in line  for a final salary pension that pays up to two-thirds of their working wage in retirement. Photograph: Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images

The 900 workers involved in the stand off with Pfizer are in line for a final salary pension that pays up to two-thirds of their working wage in retirement. Photograph: Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images

 

Imagine if an employer snubbed the decision of the Labour Court, the final arbiter of common sense in Irish workplace relations machinery?

The outcry from the workers affected and their trade unions would be immediate, and it would attract marked support, a bit like the striking nurses who retain considerably more trust from people generally than the Government with which they are in conflict.

The Pfizer staff who have decided overwhelmingly to strike over plans to move them from their current pension arrangements are not the nurses. And their decision to rebuff detailed Labour Court recommendations is unlikely to garner much support.

More importantly, it puts a question mark over the longer-term future of the plants at which they work. These are older bulk ingredient operations, albeit ones that have seen continuous investment.

It certainly does nothing to enhance the reputation of Ireland Inc with the foreign direct investment community.

The 900 workers involved are in line currently for a final salary pension that promises to pay up to two-thirds of their working wage in retirement.

Not only that but they are not paying a cent of their own money towards those pensions. And further, unlike most people for whom pensionable pay excludes items such as bonuses and shift allowances, both are included in the Pfizer scheme. Gold-plated indeed.

Under the Labour Court recommendation, they will hold on to final salary benefits already accrued – and if they are over 50, they can choose to stay with this scheme for the rest of their working life.

Those transferring to a defined contribution scheme for future service would do so under terms that are more generous than those enjoyed by most workers in the State.

“What we have, we hold,” used to be a mantra heard regularly on the shop floor. If they persist, these Pfizer employees may find there is precious little to hold on to.

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