Bausch & Lomb threatens to lay off workers over planned industrial action

The company said proposed SIPTU industrial action poses “serious threats” to the future of the plant

Bausch & Lomb threatens to lay off workers over planned industrial action

The Bausch and Lomb plant in Waterford. Image: James Horan/RollingNews.ie

A multi-national manufacturer of eye health products has put over 160 jobs at their plant in Waterford under threat over planned industrial action.

The Services, Industrial, Professional and Technical Union (SIPTU) have issued notice of industrial action at the plant. 

In a letter to employees, Bausch & Lomb said the action will put the future of the plant in Waterford at risk.

Employees will take part in a number of one-hour work stoppages and an overtime ban beginning on December 21st.

They are looking for the full restoration of pay-cuts implemented two years ago - and have rejected a Labour Court proposal on the issue.

In a statement, the owners of the company - Valent Pharmaceuticals Ireland (VPI) - said it will not be considering calls for a full restoration and warned the 1,250 employees at the plant that the industrial action will lead to sanctions - including the lay-off of a number of employees.

They have threatened to stop new-line productions resulting in the lay-off of 54 employees, while they will also issue protective notice to a further 115 recently hired workers.

The company has also threatened to pause the planned expansion of the site and consider alternatives.

SIPTU organiser, Allen Dillon said an agreed two-year pay freeze had expired in August 2015 and, without a new agreement, employees now feel they have, “no option but to implement a campaign of industrial action.” 

“In 2014, over 800 SIPTU members reluctantly agreed to deep cuts in their pay and terms and conditions of employment,” he said

“The basic pay of our members was cut by 7.5% and there were additional reductions in bonus payments and sick pay benefits.

“Also, a new starter rate of pay was implemented for temporary staff and our members agreed to increase productivity by working an additional hour a week.”

The VPI statement said the company views the request for full restoration as a “challenge to the viability of the site.”

“The continuation of industrial action into the New Year will lead to the consideration of further actions by the company,” reads the statement.

“While we remain committed to the Waterford site, we will not be considering calls for full restoration and a return to the uncertainty of a number of years ago.

“Our goal is to maintain the viability of the plant and reach a positive resolution of this matter by the 16th December.”

SIPTU sector organiser, Alan O’Leary said the union “acknowledges that the company is honouring its commitment to invest in the plant in Waterford.”

“However, we are calling on the company to also recognise the sacrifice made by our members and also invest in them,” he said.

“The planned industrial action by our members is avoidable and we urge the company to act now and initiate a plan which provides for the full restoration of the pay and terms and conditions of employment of our members.

“The union remains available at short notice to directly engage with the company in talks to resolve this dispute.”