Eason faces staff revolt over 'immoral' pay cut

<p>Irish bookseller Eason is trying to impose a 12.5% pay cut on its 1,500 employees. The move has been resisted by staff, with a meeting being held today (6th November) at the Irish Labour Court to resolve the dispute.</p><p>Irish trade union Siptu (the Services, Industrial, Professional &amp; Technical Union) described the proposed descrease in pay, first mooted in August, as &quot;bordering on the immoral&quot;.</p><p>Noel Maguire, branch organiser at the union, said: &quot;Our staff can&rsquo;t afford to take this cut in wages. Eason is an asset-rich company and can raise cash through other avenues. We regard this as at least unimaginative management and at worst bordering on the immoral.&quot;</p><p>Eason was unavailable for comment ahead of the hearing. Siptu held discussions with Eason&rsquo;s management, including recently appointed boss Conor Whelan, through the conciliation service the Labour Relations Commission in a bid to break the deadlock. However, both sides failed to reach agreement and the matter has been referred to the Labour Court.</p><p>The court is not a court of law but operates instead as an industrial relations tribunal. Following submissions from both sides, it will set out its opinion and suggest how the dispute should be settled. Its decision is expected in the next month.</p><p>Maguire said the union had not contemplated strike action. &quot;Part of the reason why we approached a third party was to avoid that. Although if it doesn&rsquo;t rule in our favour, it remains to be seen what will happen at that stage.&quot;</p><p>Eason employs about 1,500 staff across 38 stores in Ireland and Northern Ireland. One worker told <em>The Bookseller</em>: &quot;The mood among staff is militant as last year the company didn&rsquo;t pay a Christmas bonus, nor will they this year and the 12.5% [cut] is on top of that.&quot; He added that if the court ruled in the management&rsquo;s favour, staff would be balloted over strike action.</p><p>Eason recently filed accounts at Companies House that revealed a loss of &euro;26.3m (&pound;23.6m) for the year to 29th January 2009, including a &euro;22.4m (&pound;20m) charge due to the decline in the Irish property market. Turnover fell from &euro;466.8m (&pound;418.2m) to &euro;248.4m (&pound;222.5m), reflecting the poor retail sales and the transfer of its wholesale news business to a joint venture. In 2007 it made a profit of &euro;1.2m (&pound;1m).</p><p>Ireland is one of the countries in western Europe that has suffered most from the recession. According to figures released by the Central Statistics Office, Gross Domestic Product slumped 8.4% in the first six months of 2009, compared to the previous year. Unemployment has been at around 12.5% since early summer.</p><p>While book volume sales in 2009 have grown, value sales have declined by more than 3%, according to Nielsen. In the year to 3rd October, book sales were &euro;105.5m (&pound;94.5m), down 3.2%. Volume sales were up 6.9% to 10.1 million.<br /></p>