Marks and Spencer employees are to stage a series of walk-outs across the Republic of Ireland in the run up to Christmas, in a row over the closure of their pension scheme.

Mandate, the trade union representing the workers, said its members felt there has been "a fundamental breach of trust" by senior management. On 31 October, M&S management closed the employee's defined benefit pension scheme, without agreement, the union said in a statement released today (29 November).

As a result, Mandate said it has given formal notification of strike action on behalf of the "vast majority" of the 2,300 workers across the retail chain's 17 stores.

The first walk-out is planned for 7 December - one of the busiest shopping days of the year, with two days of action planned before Christmas on 12 and 20 December.

Pickets will also be staged at the stores after 94% of those balloted backed strike action, the union said.

Mandate assistant general secretary, Gerry Light, said its members are "concerned" for all terms and conditions of employment in the future as a result of M&S' actions.

"Mandate has traditionally had a good relationship with Marks & Spencer, however, in recent months the company has made many decisions which are baffling and shocking to the union and our members and if implemented would impact negatively upon them and their families. Now they've implemented one of those changes without agreement. This is not how you conduct good industrial relations in 2013."

Light added that it was prepared, when necessary, to have discussions in relation to cost savings but that it needs to be done in "an open and transparent manner and without the unilateral implementation of company decisions which impact negatively on our members now and into the future".

When contacted by just-style, an spokesperson for M&S said: "M&S has done all it can to try and move this situation forward so we are extremely disappointed that the company has been given notice that strike action has been called.

"We are fully prepared to reopen talks at any time either locally or at the Labour Relations Commission in order to avoid the impact on our customers and employees in the run up to Christmas."