Waterford Crystal is closing down production at Kilbarry next week for four days, leaving only essential maintenance staff on duty.

Workers at the plant learned of the decision on Tuesday morning which follows months of negotiations, finalised the week before last, on redundancy terms for 492 of their number.

The company announced last November that it needed to shed that number of jobs and intended outsourcing manufacture of certain of its products. It also declared subsequently that in the absence of agreement on a deal, short-time working arrangements would be introduced.

This newspaper understands there have so far been less than 200 takers for the pay-off package on offer, which amounts to five weeks pay for each of the first 15 years of service, three weeks for the next 8 and four for each subsequent year, subject to a limit of 156 weeks in total.

A company spokesman refused to comment on developments and efforts to contact Walter Cullen, Regional Organiser of the UNITE trade union, proved fruitless.

It is understood, however, that talks between management and union representatives were scheduled for Wednesday morning.