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Wednesday 27 August 2014

900 jobs saved as second union at Bausch and Lomb accepts pay cuts

Ralph Riegel

Published 18/06/2014 | 02:30

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

MORE than 900 Waterford jobs have been saved after a second Bausch and Lomb union voted to accept pay cuts.

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The TEEU ratified a plan accepted 24 hours earlier by SIPTU which will see cost savings of over €20m achieved at the contact lens manufacturer.

The vote guarantees the future of the plant, which has a total workforce of 1,100.

However, 200 jobs will be shed through redundancy.

Both SIPTU and the TEEU will now negotiate with management to see if the 200 job total can be reduced.

The company last night welcomed the approval of the cost reduction programme.

CEO and chairman of the parent company, Valeant Pharmaceuticals, Michael Pearson, said: "I would like to express our gratitude to all employees for their support, and to their union representatives for the robust and constructive way in which they negotiated with us.

"As we stated at the outset we needed to realise these savings in order to make the Waterford plant competitive and to position it for future growth."

He said they would invest further in the facility. "Our preference was always to keep the plant open, and this vote allows us to do that."

TEEU regional secretary, Paddy Kavanagh, said workers had played their part and the next step was up to the firm.

"The cuts to pay and conditions arising from these proposals are particularly harsh and will impact greatly on the workers. However, the alternative is unthinkable," he said.

"All eyes are on the company now, to ensure that they live up to their side of the bargain and that the promised investment will proceed, thereby ensuring the future viability of the plant."

The ballot details were not released.

Complex

Workers will see an effective 12pc cut in wages as part of a complex series of savings, including basic pay, bonuses, working hours, sick pay and redundancy terms.

Bausch and Lomb, owned by US firm, Valeant Pharmaceuticals, had warned it would close its entire Waterford operation if the required cost savings were not achieved.

Waterford Chamber of Commerce and local politicians warned that 1,100 job losses would have been "catastrophic" for the entire south-east region.

The TEEU ballot opened at 6am and closed at 10pm yesterday, with the result of the ballot of fitters and technicians confirmed before 11pm.

The deal had to ratified by both unions to be implemented.

The company last night said they were grateful to the Government and the IDA for their engagement with the firm and their offering of grants and incentives to support investment in the plant.

Workers at the Cork Road plant were reluctant to comment on the pay cut ballots.

"There isn't much to celebrate, is there," one female SIPTU worker told the Irish Independent. "I suppose we saved the plant and the jobs but there won't be much to smile about when the money is taken out of your wages."

SIPTU is the dominant union at the plant, with 563 of its members accepting the package compared to 157 who rejected the wage cuts.

The cost-cutting plan sought by the firm last month initially included 200 job losses and pay cuts of up to 20pc.

However, the impact of the pay cuts has been negotiated down to around 12pc.

SIPTU's Gemma Mackey said workers fully understood that the entire future of the plant was at stake.

"We were in no doubt that Valeant were going to pull out," she said. "It would have been absolutely devastating for the wider community of Waterford let alone the workers here."

SIPTU's Alan O'Leary said the union would now be expecting the firm to match the "sacrifices" made by workers.

Irish Independent

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