Virgin Media staff to ballot for strike action over redundancy plans

Unions accuse management of failing to consult over decision to lay off up to 65 staff

Workers at Virgin Media are to hold ballots for industrial action following a decision by the company to make up to 65 workers redundant. File photograph: Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times.

Workers at Virgin Media are to hold ballots for industrial action following a decision by the company to make up to 65 workers redundant. File photograph: Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times.

 

Workers at Virgin Media are to hold ballots for industrial action following a decision by the company to make up to 65 workers redundant.

Some 120 members of the Unite trade union, which represents engineers, technicians and administration staff at the media group, voted on Monday night to ballot for strike action.

Call centre staff in Limerick, who are members of the Siptu trade union, also agreed to ballot and Virgin Media engineering staff in Cork are expected to take a decision on strike action in the coming days.

Both unions have accused Virgin Media management of issuing redundancy notices without having consulted the unions involved either before or after the announcement. They said the company had not responded to letters sent by them reminding them to consult both unions.

Unite regional officer Brendan Byrne said his members were “shocked” that the proposed redundancy terms were less than those agreed by the unions with Virgin Media’s previous owner UPC in 2015.

Liberty Global, which was founded by Irish-American entrepreneur John Malone, acquired the cable company Chorus in 2004 which eventually became Virgin Media.

Virgin Media acquired TV3 in 2015 and UTV Ireland in 2016. The company rebranded to Virgin Media Television in 2018. The company has 1,600 employees in Ireland.*

‘Revenue growth’

The company justified the redundancies on the basis that it was “entering a new phase of transformation” and may have to cut the jobs to “ensure continued revenue growth in a highly competitive market”.

It added: “It is envisaged that up to 65 roles may potentially be affected and we have entered a 30 day consultation period with staff members. This is being conducted in a sensitive and appropriate manner.”

A Virgin Media spokeswoman defended the decision not to consult with the unions stating that the “roles impacted do not fall under the collective bargaining groups (a small proportion of Virgin Media staff), therefore consultation with the unions was not required. Employee representatives have been nominated in the business”.

Mr Byrne said the issue of collective bargaining is now with the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).

“The company should meet with the union in regard to collective redundancies. By failing to respect the mandatory 30-day consultation period, the company is in breach of its legal obligations,” he said.

“No redundancies should be imposed before a full consultation process has been carried with a view to minimising job losses, as required by law. Furthermore, any redundancy packages following this process must be in line with the agreement reached between unions and the company in 2015.

“The resolution of this dispute lies in the hands of Virgin Media, and we would urge Communications Minister Richard Bruton to intervene, reminding the company of their legal obligations to their workers and urging them to engage with unions as a matter of priority.

“If this matter is not resolved we will be moving swiftly to ballot for industrial action.”

*This article was edited on November 15th, 2019