Workers in struggle – Lloyd’s Pharmacy: Fighting for union recognition

Mandate has called on Lloyd’s Pharmacy to respect its employees’ right to trade union representation before the management does even more damage to the business.

The union responded to a press statement issued by the company to correct serious flaws in its presentation of what is happening and to expose the company’s in-house union and its bogus ballot.

Mandate represents 270 workers in Lloyd’s Pharmacy (35 per cent of the eligible membership), all of whom opted to be represented by an independent trade union.

The union lodged a pay and benefits claim with Lloyd’s in February 2017. At first the company agreed to attend a hearing at the Workplace Relations Commission, and at its request the union agreed to a delay in proceedings. But the company then immediately set about establishing an internal company-controlled body, called the “Colleague Representative Committee,” to avoid dealing with an independent trade union.

The company admitted to the Labour Court that it financed this body to the tune of €10,000 last year.

The two ballots organised by the management were tainted, as the company allowed members of the senior management, and up to seventy members of the head office staff, who would not be affected by the proposals, to ballot on them, while denying the opportunity to a number of employees who would be affected by the proposals.

No member of the staff opted to join the bogus union: the senior management imposed this body on the workers. It has never had democratic elections: the committee was selected by the senior management.

To participate in the two ballots, employees had to provide their name and their staff identification number, meaning that the vote was not anonymous.

The first ballot was passed with 51 per cent in favour (six votes in the difference); the second ballot was passed by 52 per cent in favour (33 votes in the difference). Employees have told Mandate that they felt intimidated not only into voting but into voting in a particular way.

Lloyd’s are incorrect in stating that the deal “has been endorsed by the majority of staff in two separate ballots”: only 37 per cent of those eligible voted in favour of the proposals, despite pressure from the company.

Mandate members were balloted on the proposals from the company and rejected them by 96 per cent.

The proposals by Lloyd’s Pharmacy do not provide for a system of secure contracts, as claimed by the management. There are workers in Lloyd’s who are earning less than the €10.60 per hour claimed by the management (€10 per hour is the starting rate).

In April 2018 the Labour Court issued a recommendation calling on the company to negotiate with Mandate. The minister for business, Heather Humphreys, has called on the company to accept this recommendation. Seanad Éireann has unanimously passed a motion calling on the company to negotiate with the workers through their trade union.

The general secretary of Mandate, John Douglas, called on the company to “stop spinning and make some real efforts towards achieving a satisfactory resolution to this dispute.

“None of the benefits that have been won to date would have occurred without our members joining Mandate and taking action over the last two months. By pretending that the CRC [Colleague Representative Committee] has achieved these improvements to conditions of employment, this company, which is owned by McKesson Corporation—the largest pharmaceutical company in the world—is adopting the most obvious and transparent US-style union-busting tactics.”

The strike by Mandate on behalf of its 270 members in Lloyd’s Pharmacy is in support of—

  • a pay increase, with adequate incremental pay scales
  • a sufficient sickness pay scheme
  • security of hours and the elimination of zero-hour contracts
  • improvements in annual leave entitlements and public holiday premiums.

Dates for future strikes:

  • August: Saturday the 25th
  • September: Monday the 3rd and Tuesday the 4th
  • October: Monday the 1st, Tuesday the 2nd, and Wednesday the 3rd
  • November: Thursday the 1st, Friday the 2nd, Saturday the 3rd, and Monday the 5th

SIPTU members in Co. Donegal vote overwhelmingly for strike

SIPTU members at the Rapid Action Packaging plant in Gaoth Dobhair, Co. Donegal, have voted overwhelming for strike action in a dispute over a refusal by the management to recognise their right to union representation for collective bargaining purposes. This company receives public funds through Údarás na Gaeltachta.

A ballot of members resulted in a vote of 97 per cent for strike. The management has refused to respect a Labour Court recommendation, even though the company handbook states that it will always adhere to decisions of the state’s industrial relations mechanisms.

SIPTU said it remained available for discussions with the management at any time to find a resolution to the dispute. However, workers’ right to engage in collective bargaining on issues of joint concern is a fundamental principle that the company must accept.

SIPTU calls on Harris to intervene in pay dispute

SIPTU has called for the restoration of lost pay for thousands of workers providing vital health services.

Workers in “section 39 organisations” around the country will take part in a one-day national strike on Tuesday 18 September. These are voluntary organisations that provide a service similar to, or ancillary to, a service that the HSE might provide and that receive funds under section 39 of the Health Act (2004).

These workers have more than ten Labour Court recommendations in their favour, confirming that the restoration of pay should apply to them in line with their counterparts in the public service.

These public-sector workers are determined to see these recommendations honoured in full.

Anger and concern at Bombardier over further outsourcing

Workers and their unions have condemned the decision of Bombardier to sell off its tubing centres at Mirabel in Québec and in Belfast to the French company Lauak Group in the latest incident of offshoring and outsourcing. In Belfast the workers and their union, Unite, were informed only on the day the decision was made public.

The union stated: “Despite talk that this sell off will raise revenue for investment in new projects, workers in Belfast see this as a further instance of management taking jobs and skills out of the Belfast site.

“This effective outsourcing of work done by fitters and welders in Belfast comes as the latest in a long line of offshoring and outsourcing of IT, finance and maintenance functions.”

Nearly seventy workers will be affected by Bombardier’s decision.

District council workers to be balloted on strike

All four unions representing workers employed by Newry, Mourne and Down District Council—GMB, NIPSA, SIPTU, and Unite—have held an unprecedented joint consultative ballot on industrial action, beginning on Friday 31 August.

In mid-August, members of all four unions passed an overwhelming vote of no confidence in the council’s chief executive, Liam Hannaway. The council management has attempted to play workers against each other by misrepresenting their concerns and their criticisms of the senior management in the human resources department as criticism of those employed by the department as a whole.

The dispute concerns job-matching and restructuring connected with the establishment of the new “super-council” under the Review of Public Administration, and the heavy-handed approach of the senior management, as well as its failure to engage with the formal negotiating structures with the unions.

A protest has been confirmed for the September council meeting at Downshire Civic Centre, Downpatrick, on Monday 3 September.