Waterford Crystal trade union chiefs met yesterday (Thursday) with Clarion Capital representatives, the second US investor interested in the possibilities of purchasing Waterford Wedgwood, whose banks have taken it over following its failure to meet debt repayments.

Afterwards a union spokesman described the talks as having been “constructive” and he said the issues raised would be debated by shop stewards over the coming days.

Clarion, a New York based private equity fund, looks set to bid against KPS Capital Partners, which has been in talks over the past two weeks with receiver David Carson.

News of Clarion’s interest came as it emerged that Mr Carson had ended phased redundancy payments due to 206 former workers laid off from the Kilbarry operation last year.

The former staff had been receiving redundancy payments phased over a period of time. Mr Carson cut those by 60 pc when he took over at the beginning of the year. Now he has been forced to cut the payments entirely, the former workers concerned, part of an overall group of 490 laid off from November of 2007, having received their final cheques last week.

The 800 staff at Kilbarry have been on a three-day week since January 19 and that move, allied to the ending of redundancy payments, are seen as a clear indication that the money available to keep the company going is dwindling.

Mr Carson is committed to selling Waterford as a going concern, but he has told union representatives that if neither the KPS nor Clarion bids goes ahead it will not be economically viable to keep the company going in receivership.

Prior to yesterday’s talks, a Unite union spokesman said his people did not underestimate the challenges ahead if the interests of all the workers were to be protected.

Clarion owns a diverse range of businesses in manufacturing as well as financial services and a restaurant chain. It also owns US luxury luggage manufacturer, Hartmanns.
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