Siptu defers Pfizer strike action in row over pensions

Workplace Relations Commission invites both sides to talks to avert strike action that had been due to start on Friday

Trade union Siptu has deferred strike action by some 400 members at pharmaceutical giant, Pfizer after both sides agreed to attend a meeting at the Workplace Relations Commission. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/PA Wire

Trade union Siptu has deferred strike action by some 400 members at pharmaceutical giant, Pfizer after both sides agreed to attend a meeting at the Workplace Relations Commission. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/PA Wire

 

Trade union Siptu has deferred strike action by some 400 members at pharmaceutical giant, Pfizer after both sides agreed to attend a meeting at the Workplace Relations Commission in relation to proposed pension changes at the company.

Siptu organiser Ray Mitchell confirmed on Wednesday that Siptu members at the Pfizer plants at Ringaskiddy and Little Island in Cork had agreed to defer their scheduled industrial action on foot of a request from the WRC.

Pfizer also confirmed it had agreed to the request for more meetings over the proposed pension changes and had acceded to a request by the WRC not to take any immediate action in relation to pension changes for approximately 900 employees.

Siptu had been scheduled to hold a 24 hour industrial action at the Ringaskiddy plant on Friday with the dispute due to escalate on Monday members at Little Island were to join the action.

Mr Mitchell said last month that 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.

The Labour Court had intervened in the dispute and issued a recommendation which marked an improvement for workers on the original offer. It would have included lump sum payment of up to €35,000 for those transferring from the defined benefit scheme.

Pfizer also pointed out 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 has argued that Defined Benefit schemes, which remain open to accrual are increasingly rare, and that the cost of funding such schemes has risen 1,000 per cent since 2009 and that such an increase in cost is not sustainable and the volatility of the schemes poses a challenge for the company.

The Labour Court recommendation was rejected by over 90 per cent of Siptu members at the plants.