Last week, Siptu members employed in the chain voted unanimously in favour of industrial action and by 97.5% to 2.5% in favour of strike action after the company closed the workers’ defined benefit pension scheme.
Siptu represents about 140 workers in M&S stores in the Dublin area and today’s industrial action is the first of three days’ of work stoppages that are expected to impact severely on the stores’ pre-Christmas trade.
Next Thursday is the second day of industrial action at the stores, followed by Friday, Dec 20.
The company yesterday admitted that stores are likely to close today as a result.
An M&S spokesman said: “We received notice of proposed strike action from the unions last Friday and this situation remains unchanged.
“The proposed strikes would be hugely disruptive and as a result our stores are likely to be closed tomorrow.
“We apologise to our customers for the disruption this will cause at this busy time of year and advise they check our website for the latest updates.”
It also released a detailed statement in which it contradicted the position of the union with regards to the closure of the company’s defined benefit pension scheme.
The company said the closure cannot be reversed but it is open to discussing compensation.
SIPTU said there had been no meaningful engagement and it was disgusted by the management’s decision to close the pension scheme.
Meanwhile, the disputes committee of the ESB group of unions issued a statement reaffirming the deadline of Monday, Dec 16, for a work stoppage in its row with the company over pension entitlements.
The statement read: “The industrial dispute to commence at 8am on Monday 16 December 2013 will take the form of an all-out dispute (full withdrawal of labour and the placing of pickets) involving all unionised staff who are members of the defined benefit pension scheme.
“All ESB-generated power will be off the bars from 8am on Monday 16th December.”
It added that “where applicable and to be decided by the dispute committee, emergency cover for fault and repair services will be provided”.
The threatened action at ESB and M&S comes alongside unrest at Aer Lingus, also over pension funds.
Goodbody Capital Markets analyst Donal O’Neill said yesterday that the Aer Lingus situation — in which Siptu said any ballot for industrial action would not impact on pre-Christmas flights — was just one of a number of rumbling disputes.
“In a broader context, there are a number of significant pension disputes running across corporate Ireland in which the trade union movement is heavily involved,” he said.