Saturday 29 July 2017

500 jobs axed but workers refusing to leave

Conor Kane

ALMOST 500 workers at the iconic Waterford Crystal plant became the latest victims of the recession yesterday, as the receiver appointed to the business announced the "immediate" end of manufacturing there.

Stunned employees, some of them with over 40 years' service at the world-famous company, staged a sit-in last night in an attempt to get the closure decision reversed and to secure commitments from the receiver about the future.

Despite talks being held with a number of investment companies in recent weeks, time ran out for the workers yesterday afternoon when receiver David Carson of Deloitte confirmed that he had written to staff.

"As a consequence, approximately 480 employees have been made redundant," he said in a statement.

One of few rays of hope for the workers was provided by former managing director John Foley who has joined a consortium of US investors aiming to bid for the company.

According to Mr Foley, the group will be making an offer in the near future in an attempt to retain crystal production on the Waterford site.

After news spread of the plant's closure yesterday afternoon, workers immediately began to congregate at the factory on Waterford city's Cork Road and, following some angry scenes, made clear their intention to stay put until they got answers.

The receiver said in his statement that the decision to cease manufacturing "does not necessarily preclude a resumption of operations in Waterford in the future", adding that he was continuing negotiations with interested parties with a view to selling the company's assets.

Over 200 employees remain on the payroll, including about 10pc of the existing manufacturing staff. It's understood that they are being kept on to keep the plant's furnaces going, to ensure production could restart if crystal production is taken on by a buyer.

Unhappy with the receiver's assurance, however, the employees remained on site as their union officials attempted to get further clarification.

The iconic visitors' centre -- also closed "temporarily", according to the receiver -- was the focal point of the sit-in.

"We had been given verbal assurance by the receiver that everything would be done to maintain the plant as a going concern," said Unite regional organiser Walter Cullen.

"The assurance also covered that if any decision to close was to be taken that the workers, through UNITE, would be advised well in advance."

Hope

Mr Cullen said that they had learned about the closure yesterday when private security staff, employed by the receiver, shut the doors.

"There was no notification to staff or the union," he said. "We will not leave the premises until such time as the receiver has listened to alternative options with regard to closure, options that will keep alive the hope of a successful takeover."

Irish Tourist Industry Confederation chairman Dick Bourke said that Arts, Sport and Tourism minister Martin Cullen should demand that the visitor centre be re-opened as soon as possible.

Labour TD for Waterford Brian O'Shea said the news was a "terrible shock" for employees and asked that every effort be made to ensure crystal production continues in the city.

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