Bombardier Workers Fight Jobs Massacre

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BOMBARDIER has upped its jobs massacre programme in Belfast, with an even greater number of sackings to take place this year.

The aerospace company said in February that it was axing 1,080 posts over two years, about 20% of its Northern Ireland workforce. But now it says 630 will go in 2016 – as opposed to the 580 it stated initially. Bombardier has announced it is cutting 7,000 jobs across its global workforce.

A Bombardier spokesperson said: ‘We have advised our employees that, having reviewed our requirements, regrettably, we need to pull forward some of the workforce reductions. We appreciate this is a very difficult time for our workforce and their families and we are doing all we can to mitigate the numbers of compulsory redundancies.’

The company has been under severe financial pressure as cost overruns on its new C Series jet have drained cash out of the company. The C Series programme received $1bn (almost £700m) from the state government in Quebec last year. The firm has also been hit by a downturn in the business jet market.

Bombardier is the largest manufacturing employer in Northern Ireland and supports hundreds more jobs through its supply chains. More than half of the jobs being cut this year come from the firm’s ‘complementary labour force’.

That part of the workforce is made up of temporary and contract workers and tends to fluctuate depending on demand. Late last year the Irish workforce was asked to accept pay cuts and other changes to terms and conditions with the firm claiming it was ‘in serious financial crisis’.

However the proposal was overwhelmingly rejected in a ballot of union members.

Meanwhile, in the Luas tram dispute, Siptu is to begin two days of general meetings with all grades of Luas workers at Liberty Hall in Dublin. The meetings are being held to ensure members are kept up to date on talks about the pay dispute with the Luas operator Transdev.

Siptu suspended a planned 48-hour strike last weekend to allow negotiations with the company to proceed, but the union said that a further six days of strike action are still set to go ahead if the dispute is not resolved. The meetings came after Transdev held talks on the current pay dispute with three of the four grades of Luas workers.

Transdev described the meeting with Revenue Protection officers, Revenue Protection Supervisors and Traffic Supervisors as ‘positive’. Further meetings are planned. Transdev had been due to meet the key driver grade, but due to scheduling difficulties that meeting has been postponed until next Monday, as relations deteriorate even further between Irish Rail and its unions.

Elsewhere, legal threats have been fired off between Irish Rail and its unions over, what the company describes, as a breach of contracts by drivers who are refusing to train new recruits. Irish Rail described the move as a continued refusal to undertake their duties.

The company’s director of human resources, Ciaran Masterson, said the action has ‘obviously been coordinated’ and is a clear example of unofficial industrial action.

He told the two staff unions Siptu and the National Bus and Rail Union to immediately inform their members to cease ‘this unlawful activity’.

‘Failure to do so will result in action being taken against Siptu and NBRU trade unions,’ he said adding that action could include the issue and service of High Court legal proceedings on the unions.

Legal representatives for the drivers said that the contention that unions had co-ordinated the refusal to train new drivers was ‘utterly false’ and said it was a matter for individual members to decide whether they wish to volunteer to provide certain training services or not. They said any litigation by the company would be defended in full.

Finally, around 1,000 Tesco employees have voted to back strike action over plans by the company to slash their pay and conditions. There was an 85% turnout and 99% of those voted to back industrial action.

Mandate Trade Union assistant general secretary Gerry Light said: ‘We’ve now served notice on the company that our members intend to strike in the event the company proceeds with their plans to cut wages or alter the contracts of employment without agreement.’

Earlier, the supermarket multinational said it was deferring its plan to reduce pay and conditions for around 1,000 of its 14,000 employees until Monday 16 May. It also said it had formally opened a voluntary redundancy over the scheme for staff.

Light added: ‘It’s a pity it took until the declaration of our ballot before the company accepted the invitation to attend the WRC, especially when you consider we wrote to the company more than a month ago. It seems the company was waiting for the result of the ballot before they agreed to engage, but better late than never.’

The dispute centres on around 1,000 workers, 6% of the Tesco workforce, who hold pre-1996 contracts of employment involving higher rates of pay and better working hours than those applicable to staff recruited after 1996.

The company argues that the pre-1996 contracts are not sufficiently flexible to meet the needs for longer opening hours and changed trading patterns. The pre-1996 workers are employed in 89 of the company’s 149 stores. However, Mandate and Siptu said that workers would stand to lose out due to the lower pay provisions and more flexible working hours in the post-1996 contract.

The ‘migration’ to the lower contracts was set to go ahead on Monday, but Tesco has now deferred that until 16 May. Separately, the Labour Court has recommended a 2% pay award, which was paid to all staff except those on the pre-1996 contract. Tesco has now confirmed that the 2% will be added to the redundancy package of anyone who chooses to leave.

The company has also pledged that additional working hours that might be available after the voluntary redundancy scheme will be offered first to existing part-time staff.

Pre-1996 employees have a contractual entitlement to a 5% bonus. Newer recruits have an entitlement to a share bonus which was not paid in 2015 due to a deterioration in Tesco’s trading performance.

However, the company has now paid a 1.5% share bonus to the post-1996 employees.

In a statement Tesco said it was ‘disappointed’ with the result of the Mandate ballot for pre-1996 employees.

• Results of a new survey released on Monday show that workers in unionised employments in the retail sector earn 30% more than workers in the non-union sector.

The survey, conducted by Mandate Trade Union, also shows that union workers in the retail sector tend to have more secure hours and better contracts of employment.

Approximately 1,000 workers from 200 companies completed the survey, 59pc from the non-union sector and 41% from the union sector. Key results from the Retail Workers Survey Ireland show that:

• Retail workers in unionised employments earn an average of 13.03 euros per hour compared to 10.04 euros for non-union workers.

• 100% of unionised retail workers have pay scales with service increments, compared to only 14% in the non-union retail sector.

• The average minimum hour contract for retail workers in unionised employments is 24, compared to 16 hours in non-union employments. A difference of approximately 100 euros per week.

• 16% of workers in the non-union sector say they work under zero hour contracts, whereas there is no evidence of zero hour contracts in the unionised retail sector.

Speaking at the Mandate Biennial Delegate Conference in Galway, General Secretary of Mandate John Douglas said the results of the survey illustrate the importance of being in a trade union. The retail sector is one of the most precarious industries in Ireland with a high prevalence of low-pay and insecure work. However, the results of this survey show that if you are in a union, you do better in almost all categories of employment.’

He added: ‘Union workers earn more, they have more secure hours, have better pensions and most importantly, they have a voice at work.’ Douglas concluded by saying Mandate members had won more than 36 million euros in pay increases over the last four years, which is further evidence that you are better off in a trade union.