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Dublin's last dairy shut down

THERE was devastation among workers at the Premier Dairies plant in Rathfarnham which is to be shut down late next year as part of the Avonmore Waterford rationalisation plan.

The announcement of the closure, which will mean the loss of more than 200 jobs, was the death knell for Dublin city's last remaining dairy.

Approximately 100 warehousing and distribution jobs at Premier Dairies will be transferred to a new milk depot to be located somewhere near Dublin's M50 motorway.

But the remaining 214 employees who work in milk processing face the choice of applying for a move to another Avonmore Waterford operation outside Dublin or seeking voluntary redundancy from the company.

The packing of milk at Rathfarnham will be discontinued early in the second half of next year and will be moved to an enlarged plant at Ballitore,Co Kildare.

However milk will continue to be distributed from Rathfarnham until the site for a new more conveniently located distribution centre can be found.

SIPTU secretary Brian O'Neill described the announcement as ``a kick in the teeth'' to the employees who had only recently completed the transfer of production from Premier in Finglas to Rathfarnham.

He said this had involved voluntary redundancies and the relocation of staff from Finglas.

This had been accepted only on the basis that it would make both the Rathfarnham plant and Premier Dairies more competitive and would result in greater job security for the union's members in the future.

He said Premier Dairies,with over 300 employees,was the sole surviving milk processing plant in Dublin itself the largest dairy market in the country.

The company's plan to close the plant and destroy 214 jobs was unacceptable and would be resisted.

He said the group of unions at Avonmore Waterford was totally opposed to any compulsory redundancies. They were insisting that any change could only be achieved through negotiation and agreement.

At the Rathfarnham plant, worker Thomas Doyle (48) a father of four, summed up the feeling of his colleagues: ``I am devastated.''

``It is a sad day for the lads. We are very disappointed about what has happened. Dublin is the loser because this is the last dairy. These things always seem to happen at Christmas.''

Mr Doyle from Mulhuddart bottles cream. ``To shut down the Dublin plant and transfer it to the country is beyond belief.''

He said an Avonmore representative told workers on the floor yesterday that the plant would cease production about mid-June of next year.

Another worker, David McKenzie (35), single from Terenure, has eighteen years service. Like many of his mates, he does not know what he will do.

``I have given a lot of years to the company but in the end it is nothing. There is progress being made but we are the sacrifice. I am so sad about it.''

Jimmy Bahahan (55), a forklift driver from Glasthule, has been in the industry for 35 years. He said: ``I am very sick.

``It may be the right thing to do. But it is the wrong thing to do for people who work here.''

``I am more concerned for the younger people with mortgages and houses and very little future in front of them. They will get only little money because they will not have the service.''

Of the redundancy package and option he said: ``Some would prefer to see out their days in the job.''

Machine operator John Grant (28) has been in the job 12 years. He told how he had relations in South Africa and he would travel there for work. He warned that an industrial dispute could be on the cards.

OF the statement that redundancy would be voluntary, he said: ``We will not take voluntary redundancy. It is compulsory they are closing the place down and the workers are not happy.''