Hundreds of Waterford families face a nail-biting few days to learn whether equity firm KPS Capital Partners will retain any jobs in the city or support the pension scheme, should they opt to purchase the Waterford Crystal division of Waterford Wedgwood.
Staff at Kilbarry have not yet been put on protective notice by receiver David Carson, as indicated in some media reports this week. Short time working was proposed by Mr Carson in recent days but the matter has since not been discussed. However the mood amongst the 800-strong workforce is one of despair, heightened by the news that Campbell Catering had put their 30 or so employees in the plant’s canteen on protective notice this week.
Already, former Crystal employees who took redundancy but have not yet reached retirement age have had their agreed weekly payments stopped and many have been told that their promised lump sum will not materialise.
And there was outrage amongst workers this week when it emerged that the company’s 14-strong Board received payments totalling €2.1m last year (up from €1.6m amongst 11 board members the previous year), at a time when Wedgwood was rapidly losing money.
Tanaiste and Enterprise Minister Mary Coughlan and Martin Cullen, Minister for Arts Sports and Tourism, are due to meet with potential buyers KPS on Wednesday to discuss the plans for the Waterford plant. KPS officials have requested a meeting with members of trade union UNITE (the union representing the majority of the Crystal workers) in the city on Thursday and Crystal workers will be briefed on the outcome of this meeting in the Tower Hotel on Saturday morning.
Waterford Crystal continued to trade this week, though 367 of the 1,868 workers in Waterford Wedgwood’s British operations were told on Monday that their jobs were gone and further cuts are expected.
Crystal’s Chief Executive John Foley announced his resignation on Tuesday afternoon. Foley, who also resigned as President of Waterford Wedgwood USA, said the events of last week had been and continued to be devastating for everyone associated with the company.
“I am proud that the management and workforce worked tirelessly for the continuation of the company”, he added. “I am hopeful that, under new ownership, the brand and the Irish dimension of the business will continue in the long-term. Despite the many obvious issues in the business, the Waterford brand continues to be the market leader in the U.S., Ireland and Britain and, although market conditions have been extremely difficult, the brand is as strong as it ever has been.”
See page 2 and also Opinion on page 6