As we go to press, there is some sign that the sale of Waterford Crystal may be on the way to completion. The two bids are not quite there but we understand that one is more advanced than the other, due to the KPS earlier involvement.
We would appeal to the government to ask the Receiver to not be high handed and give the sale the time it deserves for such a strategic industry.
In Germany, they will have to wait till the end of February for a bankruptcy court appointed official to fulfill his duties so we hope that the Waterford bid also gets due consideration.
We are glad to know that the government is now heavily involved and wants to see a certain element of manufacturing in Waterford and the visitor/design centre.
The latter will need new investment and upgrading to make it more interesting for visitors and to build on the numbers coming here.
If the Government put a proper investment here there would be a return to the Exchequer as well as good and valuable foreign exchange at a time when exports are dropping when industry is closing. We understand that the Tanaiste and Minister for Employment and Industry has a key role to play.
Last week’s events with the public pay issue diverted attention away from Waterford. Now we would hope that she gives it the time to truly appraise the situation and move it forward, not just Waterford’s sake but for the South East region and the country at large. She may even wish to come down here and see for herself the importance and passion we have for this industry, its business and its people.
We would echo the points made by the Mayor of Waterford in his work to retain the facility here at a time of severe economic difficulty. Cllr Jack Walsh has said that maintaining a strong manufacturing, design and marketing presence at Waterford Crystal is critical to the future viability of the plant and protecting jobs at the facility into the future should be at the heart of any new buy-out deal for the company.
While two companies remain engaged in the bidding process, profits for investors should not be put ahead of the livelihoods of skilled, dedicated workers, their families and the wider Waterford community, the Mayor said.
“These are very anxious days for the workers at Waterford Crystal, their families and the city as a whole. It is paramount that production should re-start immediately at Kilbarry and that the skilled craftspeople who have honed their expert skills over decades should be back on the payroll.
“There have been very many twists and turns in the Waterford Crystal story over the years and the remainder of this week will be a critical time for its staff. It is now my earnest hope as Mayor that a successful outcome can be achieved to the current process.
The Mayor said he would regard success as the retention of a significant manufacturing, design and marketing operation in Waterford as well as the related visitor centre and gallery.
There also needed to be a resolution to the ongoing pensions issue at the company.
We understand that the Waterford Chamber of Commerce representatives have been to the factory and spoken to the workers occupying it there.
There will be some outstanding issues like that of pensions where an EU case is likely to be taken unless the Government can come up with a rescue package that could be offered over a period of time, perhaps 15 years. In the meantime, investment markets may recover and pension expectations can be met to some extent. The current situation is very uncertain and could lead to further demonstrations as was seen last week. Waterford workers turned out in their thousands for same.
We visited the factory last week and we know the strength of feeling on matters outstanding. The workers believe in the product and also what they are owed.
They keep the furnace open to save the factory for Waterford at no wage and show great passion for a tremendous craft industry.
Matters are far from resolved, so we hope and pray with hopeful optimism that some reasonable outcome can be achieved. Strong Government is needed to put the best deal forward for Waterford.
The brand must remain Irish, jobs are crucial in Waterford for the glass and for tourism and the wider community. The stakes are very high as we await the outcome in this anxious time. The British Government is anxious to save Wedgwood and much can be learned from each other as they are both fantastic heritage brands.