Another Dark Day

Bausch & Lomb’s Waterford plant, where 200 redundancies are being sought.

Bausch & Lomb’s Waterford plant, where 200 redundancies are being sought.

Nuclear option threatened as B+L staff face bleak choice

BAUSCH & Lomb’s 1100-strong workforce enter negotiations this week facing a harrowing choice: accept a restructuring plan that will result in 200 job losses and a 20 per cent pay cut for the retain staff; or risk the Canadian-owned company shutting down its Waterford plant. Approximately 140 workers are understood to have already expressed an interest in a redundancy package, though management are adamant that they must secure the full 200 job cuts or they will close the facility. In a strongly worded letter posted to every worker late last week, the company made its intentions clear: “If we can’t get this co-operation we will begin to implement a plan that has already been developed to close the facility.” On Thursday last, it emerged that the company was seeking €21 million in cost reductions in order to keep the contact lens manufacturing plant open. Staff were told that wage rates in Waterford are currently 30 per cent higher than the company’s sister plant in Rochester, New York. This process follows a group-wide review by the company, according to Vice President of Manufacturing Angelo Conti, who travelled to the city last week. “Given (that) Bausch & Lomb is currently trailing its competitors in the global contact lens market with a distant fourth position in market share, the status quo is not sustainable. We are now faced with a stark choice: restructure in Waterford and secure its future, or see the plant close. “While our preference is to retain Waterford as a contact lens manufacturing hub, we need to reach a decision either way very soon in the interests of creating a sustainable contact lens business.” Discussions with staff and union representatives are scheduled to run from today until June 17th, at which point the company has said it will reach a decision in principle. Speaking on ‘Morning Ireland’ on Monday morning, SIPTU’s Alan O’Leary called for that deadline to be extended, stating that a two-week negotiating window was wholly inadequate suffi – cient from the perspective of both workers and union representatives. SIPTU offi cials met with local politicians in Waterford yesterday to discuss the matter, in the hope that TDs can use their infl uence with Minister Bruton in an attempt to ensure the negotiations are not hastily completed. Meanwhile an online protest movement which began late last week has gathered momentum and a march has been organised this Friday, commencing at Bausch and Lomb at 5.30pm and marching to City Hall, stopping for a minute’s silence outside Waterford Crystal on the way.

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