Pfizer bails on Irish pension overhaul after workers union rejection
Pfizer and some of its Irish plant workers have been locked in a yearslong battle over switching pensions from a rare no-contribution scheme to one in which employees pay toward their retirement. Nearly a year after plant unions threatened to strike over the feud, Pfizer has agreed to scuttle the overhaul.
Pfizer has ended negotiations with 700 workers at its Ringaskiddy plant to enact a direct-contribution pension plan that would require workers to pay into their retirement accounts––moving away from a so-called "direct benefit" plan that is an anomaly in private enterprise.
Pfizer's exit followed the Ringaskiddy union's recent rejection of an Irish Workforce Relations Committee plan that would have provided for lump sum payments for retirees as well as giving employees an option to stay on their current plan with some contributions still required, according to the Irish Times. The 200 workers at Pfizer's Little Island plant, who previously held out on the agreement, had agreed to sign on to the committee's plan, the Times reported. An additional 100 Dublin workers are on Pfizer's direct benefit plans.
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Pfizer said in a statement it was "extremely disappointed" in the Ringaskiddy's union's rejection of the plan, saying "the issue of how to better manage the increasing costs, funding and volatility associated with defined benefit plans and ensure the competitiveness of our Irish operations remains a significant business challenge.”
In February, Pfizer announced it would move roughly 900 Irish employees to defined contribution plans after five years of negotiations led to little headway. Immediately following the declaration, the workers union said it planned a 24-hour work stoppage in the Ringaskiddy facility Feb. 15 followed by a 24-hour work stoppage in both plants Feb. 18, the Irish Examiner reported at the time.
Pfizer has pointed out that its costs to fund its defined benefit pensions have gone up 1,000% since 2009, “and these costs are affecting the competitiveness of Irish operations.” It said that its remaining 1,400 workers––not including the Little Island workforce––in the country have already made the change over to direct contribution plans.