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Last-ditch bid to save Crystal jobs

GOVERNMENT and union leaders intervened last night in a last ditch attempt to reverse the closure of Waterford Crystal.

As workers continued their sit-in at the plant in protest at its closure, the Taoiseach's secretary general, Dermot McCarthy, and union leader David Begg met in Dublin at 4.15pm to try to persuade the receiver to change his mind.

The receiver, David Carson, had earlier told union officials at a meeting in Waterford that he would not be reversing his decision to shut the plant's manufacturing operations with the loss of 480 jobs.

His meeting with Mr Carthy and Mr Begg, of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, was continuing yesterday evening. The meeting was also attended by Jimmy Kelly and Walter Cullen from Unite, the union which represents the majority of staff at Waterford Crystal.

The sudden announcement on Friday that the plant's manufacturing operations were to close prompted widespread anger among employees.

Staff at the world-famous manufacturing plant continued their protest against the closure announced by the receiver. About 200 employees took part in the occupation, in rotas of about 100 at a time, with blankets, sleeping bags and food parcels delivered by family, friends and supporters on Friday night as the workers bedded down.

In a statement, Unite said the protest would continue until Mr Carson reverses his decision to shut down manufacturing. Talks about a possible buy-out of the company's Waterford assets are continuing with at least two parties, with former managing director John Foley in one consortium which intends to bid.

However, it's unclear how many jobs would be retained. The visitors' centre at Waterford Crystal -- one of the region's top tourist attractions -- is also closing, "temporarily", according to the receiver.

A spokesman for the receiver said he has been in regular consultations with the union since he was appointed. Over 200 staff will continue working in areas such as customer service and logistics. Its on-site showroom was shut yesterday, but Mr Carson said this would be temporary.

About 10 per cent of manufacturing workers have been kept on to maintain its furnace, which is central to the production of crystal.

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In his statement, Mr Carson said, "the decision to cease manufacturing does not necessarily preclude a resumption of operations in Waterford in the future". He added that talks were continuing with interested parties on a sale of the company's assets.

Waterford City Mayor Jack Walsh said that, while the situation at the crystal plant was "grave", it was not irretrievable.

He said prospects of "the discussions with the two interested parties from the United States gave people reason to believe that a sale could be completed without the doors being closed at Kilbarry".

Mr Walsh described the end of crystal manufacturing as "a psychological blow" to the workforce and city.

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