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Workers start industrial action at Bausch + Lomb's Waterford plant after negotiations fail

WORKERS AT AN optical pharmaceuticals company in Waterford have begun industrial action today in a dispute over pay conditions.

Siptu members at Bausch + Lomb started a two-hour work stoppage at midday today after the two sides failed to reach an agreement in negotiations for a pay rise.

The union argues that the company is not offering workers a sufficient pay rise to support them during the cost of living crisis.

In a statement, Bausch + Lomb Waterford Site Lead Mark Hennessy said the company is “totally committed to finding a resolution regarding the current pay talks and that is why we regret today’s industrial action”.

He said an offer proposed on Tuesday involved a 10.8% increase for an average operator over three years.

“We believe that a resolution can be found and we would encourage SIPTU to defer any further industrial action and allow our employees to vote on the most recent company proposal so that they can make the decision for themselves,” Hennessy said.

The Journal has contacted Siptu for a comment.

In a statement earlier this week, Sipty confirmed that members intended to start industrial action with a two-hour work stoppage today.

Siptu organiser Allen Dillon said the dispute is “the result of management intransigence in relation to providing an adequate pay rise for workers in this highly profitable company”.

“These workers need to achieve a pay increase that protects their standard of living and purchasing power,” Dillon said.

“As with workers across the economy they face a cost of living crisis resulting from an inflation rate which is at its highest in a generation and soaring costs for other essential services.”

Siptu organises over 1,000 workers who are employed in the manufacturing plant.

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Bausch + Lomb, which produces contact lenses and other eye health products along with providing research and development and surgical support facilities, established its Waterford facility in 1980.

It employs 1,650 people at the plant, with 600 of those workers having joined since 2015.

The current dispute is partly linked to pay cuts that were made in 2014 to try to avoid job losses at the company.

It involved a wage reduction of 7.5% in basic pay, the elimination of some bonuses, and an additional one hour of work per week.

Two years later, Siptu members voted on an improved pay deal that increased salaries by 9.5% over three years.