Hopes by senior Pfizer management that Irish staff would agree to a phasing out of their Direct Benefit (DB) pension scheme have been dashed after members of Siptu in the Ringaskiddy plant voted overwhelmingly to reject the proposal.
Management may have been buoyed earlier when Siptu and Connect union members at the Little Island plant, which employs around 200 people, accepted a proposal brokered by the Workplace Relations Committee (WRC).
However, the Irish Examiner has learned that Siptu staff in Ringaskiddy have voted 152 to 73 (73%) to reject the proposal.
Management are now awaiting the outcome of a vote which will be taken by Connect members working in Ringaskiddy. The Ringaskiddy plant has nearly three times the workforce of Pfizer's Little Island operation.
It remains to be seen how Siptu will act in light of the split between its members in Ringaskiddy and Little Island. Last January, its members at both plants voted overwhelmingly to reject Labour Court recommendations on the company's plans to discontinue their DB pension scheme.
The pharmaceutical giant first proposed the introduction of a Direct Contribution (DC) pension scheme to replace non-contributory DB pension schemes in 2014.
The company said this would be for future accrual only, and it would continue to fund the existing DB schemes in accordance with its obligations. The Labour Court had recommended allowing those aged 55 and over to continue on the DB scheme.
Following this rejection the WRC invited the parties to re-engage under its auspices in a final attempt to reach a resolution.
The WRC made a number of recommendations which included all employees having the option to remain in the DB plan for an additional 15 years.
It also suggested that contributions to the DB plan be postponed until 2022 and incrementally increased up to 2027 for those who remained on the DB plan.
The WRC proposed that the company pay a lump sum for all DB members of €20,000, €10,000 of which would be payable in early 2020 followed by installments of €2,500 in 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025. These were subject to employees being in Pfizer service on each payment date.
Pfizer's current DB pension plans are non-contributory, meaning that employees make no contributions towards their benefits.
For those who choose to transition to the DC plan from Jan 1 next 2020, the WRC proposed they would receive an additional employer special contribution to their DC account of up to €25,000.
A spokeswoman for Pfizer said it was awaiting the outcome of the final ballot before it would make any further statement on the issue. She said when the company is made aware of the result it would issue a response in relation to the next steps it might take.