Lloyds Pharmacy workers to vote in pay dispute
The country's largest pharmacy chain may be hit by strikes in a row over the roll-out of a sick pay scheme and pay rises.
More than 200 workers at 50 Lloyds Pharmacy stores will vote on industrial action next Tuesday, the union Mandate has said.
The ballot is taking place because the company has refused to hold talks on a claim lodged by the union for better pay and conditions. Industrial action could take place from the middle of next month.
Mandate said the Labour Court recommended that the company negotiate with it, but it refused to do so.
The union lodged a claim last February demanding a pay rise, a sick leave scheme, incremental pay scales, better holiday entitlements and payments for public holidays. It also sought the axing of zero-hour contracts.
Workers do not have the legal right to be paid by their employer while on sick leave but the union argued it is standard practice at competitors, including Boots.
Staff at employers that do not offer a sick pay scheme can apply for illness benefit welfare payments, although they are generally lower than their wages.
A worker earning more than €300 a week would get €193 for instance, although there are additional payments for children and dependa nt adults.
Mandate assistant general secretary Gerry Light said Lloyds spent €10,000 setting up an internal staff representative body after the union lodged the claim. He said this body was balloting staff on an "insulting offer" that would increase their pay from the minimum wage of €9.55 an hour to €10.60.
To take part in the internal ballot, he claimed workers had to give their name and staff ID number and there was no guarantee their vote was confidential.
Mr Light said members feared there would be a black mark against their name if they voted against the proposal.
"Quite frankly, workers are being intimidated into participating in a sham ballot and voting yes for a substantially inadequate offer," he said.
Lloyds Pharmacy said it "noted" the decision of the Labour Court. "Our colleague representative committee, which is independent of management, represents Lloyds Pharmacy colleagues on all issues relating to employment terms and conditions," it said in a statement.
"We continue to engage with it on all such issues.'