More than 300 Siptu workers at the Liebherr crane factory in Killarney, Co Kerry, yesterday staged a strike arising from a 2.5% pay claim dating to 2009.
The parties have been to the Labour Relations Commission and the Labour Court over the past four years, but all efforts to break the impasse have failed.
Pickets were placed from 7am yesterday and production effectively came to a halt at the German-owned plant, where 670 people are employed and where Siptu had already initiated an overtime ban.
In 2011, Liebherr sought cost-saving measures in lieu of a 2.5% pay rise over a three-year period going forward, but Siptu is insisting that the claim dates to Jan 1, 2009, and its members are entitled to a pay increase going back to that date.
The Liebherr factory has been busy in recent years, producing cranes for ports around the world, and Siptu claims that Liebherr has made considerable profits in those years.
Siptu official Marie Kearney said the union was available at all times for meaningful negotiations.
She added that the union was keeping a “suite of options” under review.
Liebherr management also said that its door remained open for discussion, but maintained that the union was insisting on a pre-condition that any talks would be focused solely on the pay claim.
In a statement, Liebherr said the claim for back-pay to 2009 was based on a 2006 agreement when the economy was booming, and it was also based on cost-offsetting measures to be generated by employees.
Liebherr also said that the collapse of the economy changed everything in 2009 and, as projected inflation did not materialise and no off-setting measures were agreed, it did not pay the final increment of the 2006 agreement because it “was not justified’’.
Liebherr also warned that industrial action will result in contracts being sent to other Liebherr plants in Europe and to jobs losses in the Killarney plant.
It further stated that the average take-home pay of a skilled worker was €52,200 and that it will pay €40m in wages this year and another €30m to local companies and suppliers.
Last night, neither side had any progress to report in settling the dispute. If there is to be an all-out strike, union members will first have to be balloted.
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