Wednesday 26 November 2014

Bausch & Lomb: Workers back pay cut deal to save jobs

Conor Kane and Emma Jane Hade

Published 17/06/2014 | 02:30

Bausch and Lomb in Waterford City. Photo: Mark Condren
Bausch and Lomb in Waterford City. Photo: Mark Condren

HUNDREDS of workers at Bausch & Lomb have voted in favour of deep pay cuts and redundancies in order to safeguard the future of the Waterford plant.

Two hundred redundancies moved a step closer at the contact lens maker after the largest union accepted a controversial cost-cutting deal.

In a worrying trend, workers at the multi-national were effectively asked to choose between unpalatable cost saving measures and or complete closure.

SIPTU has now called on management to come good on a promise to invest in the future, following its members' decision to accept the plan.

But first the management proposals must also be backed by almost 100 TEEU members – who will today vote on whether to accept or reject the cuts.

The plan includes a wage reduction of 7.5pc in basic pay, elimination of some bonuses, one hour added work per week, a reduction in the sick pay scheme and an improved redundancy package for the 200 workers who will lose their jobs.

More than 1,100 people are employed at the contact lens manufacturer, and the SIPTU members voted in favour of the plan by 563 votes to 157 last night.

Independent TD John Halligan said that the workers had been put in a no-win situation.

"I think that they were put in a terrible position, in the sense that the threat that had been put to them was that if they didn't accept this their jobs would be gone," he said.

"And it is very, very difficult for them to accept as there are drastic cuts to their conditions and so on. But I had made the point to the workers, that whatever decision they were going to take, we would stand by them."

The company's vice-president for manufacturing, Angelo Conti, last night welcomed the outcome of the SIPTU ballot.

"We recognise that this has been a difficult decision and we would like to express our sincere appreciation to the SIPTU members for this positive vote," he said.

The company also reiterated the commitments made last week by Mike Pearson, the CEO and chairman of parent company Valeant Pharmaceuticals, that they would not seek more concessions from workers if the cost-cutting deal was accepted and would invest in the future of Waterford.

SIPTU organiser Alan O'Leary said the proposals were "very difficult" for members but enhanced compensation meant the cuts won't be felt for some time.

He called on Mike Pearson, CEO of parent company Valeant Pharmaceuticals, to back the facility's future with investment.

"Following the major sacrifice of our members today in accepting these cuts in order to secure the future of the Waterford site, we now publicly call on Mr Pearson to honour his commitment to immediately sign off on investment for Waterford," he said.

Unsustainable

"The ball is now firmly in the Valeant court and we will be writing today to Mr Pearson to seek confirmation of this vitally important investment."

Bausch & Lomb announced three weeks ago that it wanted to introduce payroll savings of about €20m in Waterford, saying the plant's wage costs were 30pc higher than those of the company's facility in Rochester, New York.

It initially proposed 200 redundancies and 20pc pay cuts, a measure described as "unsustainable for workers" by SIPTU. Redundancy will be the statutory redundancy of two weeks' pay for every year of service, with an additional four weeks' pay for every year, capped at 117 weeks' salary.

Irish Independent

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