This issue arises from the proposed takeover of GlaxoSmithKline, GSK, in Cork by Thermo Fischer Scientific. It has given rise to concerns on the part of the workers and their representatives, specifically SIPTU which represents the majority of the affected workers. They relate to the interpretation or perceived lack of adherence to the regulations in respect of the transfer of undertakings regulations of 2003. The trade union SIPTU has written to the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Humphreys, but I understand the matter is now in the bailiwick of the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Deputy Regina Doherty.
I will quote from a letter I received in respect of concerns that were raised with the Minister, Deputy Humphreys. It refers to:
...GSK management's announcement that they have failed to consult fully with the union and merely put in place a communications strategy to inform our members of both employers' unilateral decisions to change existing terms and conditions of employment. The type of unilateral changes communicated by both employers to workers have far reaching economic impact on our members for example the ceasing of the Defined Benefit Pension Scheme, fundamental changes to the Bonus scheme, non-transfer of annual leave entitlements, ceasing of the revenue approved share purchase scheme.
They are just some of the issues that have arisen. The workers in GSK were informed by their employers on 16 May last that the plant, which employs over 400 people, was to be sold to Thermo Fischer Scientific "under transfer of undertaking for the purposes of the European Communities (Protection of Employees on Transfer of Undertakings) Regulations 2003...". In plain English, one entity has been taken over by another. There were pre-existing and longstanding agreements collectively arrived at and it is feared that they will now be pushed aside. These relate to holidays, sick pay and other changes the employees will have to incur, particularly with regard to their pension entitlements or a previously negotiated pension arrangement.
Any entity, regardless of what it is, must be compliant with the law. I am raising this with the Government to ensure that the workers in GSK and Thermo Fischer Scientific are protected in law and that a process is put in place forthwith through the machinery of the State, be it the Labour Court or through a conciliation process, whereby the Government is watchful of what is happening and ensure it is aware of the situation so there will be a proper dialogue between the two sides to ensure no worker's rights are undermined in any way.