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Wednesday 11 December 2019

Staff picket Swords pharma site after being 'temporarily laid off'

Protesting staff on the picket line outside the SK Biotek pharmaceutical plant in Swords. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Protesting staff on the picket line outside the SK Biotek pharmaceutical plant in Swords. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Up to 150 staff have been "temporarily laid off" since Wednesday following an industrial dispute at a pharmaceutical company in Swords.

Workers at SK Biotek are picketing outside the premises 24 hours a day, seven days a week, as they are a "24/7 company".

Trade unions Connect and Siptu are involved in a dispute with the company over proposed changes that were brought in by SK Biotek after the facility in Swords was taken over by the South Korean company last year.

Up to 150 people "locked out" of the company include production, maintenance, warehouse and laboratory staff.

The remainder of the workfirce, thought to number around 200, are working normally.

The company had presented a 22-page document listing changes it wanted to make, including roster changes that posed "significant material change" to employee contracts.

While management proposed to taking talks to the Labour Court, the unions have refused to agree to pre-conditions listed by the company. They say they are open to negotiations, but without additional pre-conditions.

A spokesperson for SK Biotek said employees were laid off to ensure safety on site.

"Due to the complexity of our manufacturing processes and requirement to ensure the safety of all people on site, as well as the safety and stability of processes, this industrial action ultimately caused the company to effectively close down its core manufacturing operations on November 5," the spokesperson said.

Reversed

"Employees have not been 'locked out' of the site; rather, they have been temporarily laid off, from November 13, as a direct consequence of the industrial action shutting down manufacturing."

SK Biotek said that when unions agree to re-engage with discussions through the Workplace Relations Commission, the lay-offs will be reversed.

"In this case, and with a cessation of industrial action, manufacturing could recommence and lay-offs reversed," the spokesperson added.

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