Pfizer union votes for strikes over pension scheme changes

Siptu staff plan two 24-hour walkouts and indefinite overtime ban

Siptu said there would be an indefinite overtime ban from February 16th in Pfizer’s plants in Ringaskiddy and Little Island in Cork. Photograph:  Andrew Kelly/Reuters

Siptu said there would be an indefinite overtime ban from February 16th in Pfizer’s plants in Ringaskiddy and Little Island in Cork. Photograph: Andrew Kelly/Reuters

 

Staff at the Pfizer pharmaceutical plants in Ringaskiddy and Little Island in Cork who are represented by the trade union Siptu are to go on strike in a dispute over changes to their pension arrangements.

Siptu said its members would stage a 24-hour work stoppage in the Ringaskiddy plant on February 15th followed by a 24-hour work stoppage in both plants on February 18th.

The union said there would also be an indefinite overtime ban from February 16th in both plants. It warned that there would be further work stoppages over the coming weeks.

Last week, Siptu members at Pfizer voted overwhelmingly to reject a Labour Court recommendation on proposed pension changes and to take industrial action.

Siptu organiser Ray Mitchell said: “Since 2014, Siptu members have continually sought to reach agreement with the company on this issue. However, they now feel they are left with no other option but to take industrial action in order to persuade the company to reach an agreement with them on their defined-benefit [DB] pension scheme.

“Our members cannot understand why Pfizer Ireland management has sought to change their existing pension benefits while at the same time allowing its employees in other EU countries to remain in a DB scheme. In Belgium, for example, Pfizer senior management has allowed its employees the option to voluntarily stay in the DB pension scheme or to voluntarily migrate to a defined-contribution scheme.”

“The company is also aware that the current joint union/management collective agreement remains in place until a new one is negotiated and agreed with union members. Until then, there can be no alteration or amendment to the existing DB pension scheme.”

‘Disappointed’

Pfizer said last week after staff rejected the Labour Court recommendation that it was “disappointed” at the move.

“The cost to the company of funding the defined-benefit schemes has risen 1,000 per cent since 2009 and these costs are affecting the competitiveness of Irish operations,” a spokeswoman said.

Pfizer said the decision to move from the defined-benefit scheme was made at a global level to address the “unsustainable cost and exposure to highly volatile discount rates associated with defined-benefit plans”.

The Labour Court recommended that workers over the age of 50 could remain in the scheme until they retire. Those aged between 35 and 39 also had the option of remaining in the scheme for three years, those aged between 40 and 44 for five years, and those aged 45 to 50 for seven years.

In addition, it advised that an initial lump sum of €10,000 be paid to the existing scheme members to “reflect that future pension arrangement will be contributory for members”.