SIPTU members in pharmaceutical manufacturer Leo Pharma in Dublin have commenced industrial action in a dispute over redundancies.

The row centres on the company's decision to make five workers redundant.

SIPTU Organiser Jim Fuery accused the company of breaching a collective agreement which ensured that members would be made permanent after two years of service. 

"This move not only breached the collective agreement but showed a shocking level of disregard for five people who had been deemed essential workers and continued to work throughout the pandemic. These young workers were told they had lost their careers last month after such dedicated service," Mr Fuery stated. 

He confirmed that members in Leo Pharma had balloted to take industrial action in support of their five colleagues, consisting of two-hour rolling stoppages, an overtime ban and non-cooperation with proposed changes to work practices. 

The industrial action commenced this morning and will continue until 31 August, though if no solution is reached in the meantime, the campaign will then escalate to four-hour stoppages. 

Mr Fuery claimed SIPTU members in Leo Pharma had been left with no option but to take industrial action in support of their fellow members and to protect their collective agreements.  

He said the union represented 220 out of around 400 employees at the Crumlin plant.

In a statement, Leo Pharma confirmed that SIPTU had commenced industrial action at its Crumlin facility in Dublin "...arising from the ending of the employment contracts of five temporary employees."

The company said a 2013 agreement between it and SIPTU allowed for temporary fixed-term employees to be converted to permanent employees on their two-year anniversary. 

However, it noted: "This is not an automatic right, but triggers a consideration of continued employment by management where work is available."

The statement said that last April, Leo Pharma told SIPTU that it would not have available work for fourteen temporary operators after July and continued employment would not be possible. 

It said five of these operators had worked at Leo Pharma for just over two years.

"In acknowledging their statutory entitlement to a redundancy payment by virtue of having reached the requisite 2-years of service, these employees were offered, and accepted, an ex-gratia severance payment," the company continued. 

It noted that in the last 12 months, it had made 44 temporary employees permanent. 

The company concluded by saying it was disappointed that SIPTU had not engaged with the Workplace Relations Commission before serving notice of industrial action, and said it remained available for further discussions. 

Leo Pharma's headquarters is in Denmark, and it has a global workforce of 6,000. 

The company's Irish operation employs over 650 people at its operations in Dublin and Cork, manufacturing products for the treatment of skin disorders including exzema, psoriasis and dermatitis.