A scaling down of blowing operations at Waterford Crystal has left workers there concerned as negotiations continue regarding 492 redundancies sought by the company.

The talks proceeded to a Labour Relations Commission hearing last Thursday but stalemate ensued and instead of pursuing a settlement into Friday the matter was deferred to next Wednesday in the hope of some progress in the interim between union and management.

Now a slowing down of the blowing process at the factory has the workers worried about the possible implications. They wonder if it is just coincidental that it is happening as the negotiations reach a crucial stage, but the company insists it is just ‘blowing to order’ in the climate which exists.

Meanwhile, 70 temporary staff are being let go this Friday, having been given a week’s notice. They are mainly semi-skilled and general workers who would not be legally entitled to redundancy payments as they have been less than two years employed, but the UNITE union sought a financial settlement for them at the LRC hearing.

It is understood management has agreed to abide by whatever decision is reached in that regard but the union is also insisting the workers concerned form part of the 492 the company says must go.

It was on November 21 that management announced plans to cut by about half its remaining workforce at Kilbarry and at the same time to outsource 40 p.c. of production. Since then talks have been ongoing between the company – which wants matters finalised by April – and the union. But as they have so far failed to reach agreement, the LRC has now taken up the challenge of attempting to find a solution acceptable to both sides.

The union has been arguing that the rationalisation plan is not credible, comprehensive or viable and it claims that in the course of a series of meetings management has failed to address issues about which it has major concerns. Hence the involvement of the LRC, but judging by the lack of progress last Thursday the gap between the sides remains yawning.

Chief union negotiator Walter Cullen declined to comment on the situation, beyond confirming that negotiations were continuing.