A mass meeting of Waterford Crystal employees took place in The Forum, Waterford, last night (Tuesday) when union officers gave the workers details of discussions that took place with senior management last week.
Several hundred attended the meeting that was addressed mainly by Mr. Walter Cullen, District Officer, AT&GWU. Proceedings commenced at 4.30 and finished before 6pm. The mood of those present was described as ‘subdued’ by some who attended.
It was decided to give the union officers a mandate to enter talks with management and the workers were told that the union had insisted that no machinery should be moved while the talks were in progress.
Management is seeking almost 400 redundancies at the Kilbarry company, most of them from the manufacturing sector and the rest from administration and management.
Though such a drastic scenario had been well flagged, many of the workers are said to be deeply shocked and morale at the plant is at an all time low. There are many young couples both of whom are employed at the company who will be hit particularly hard.
At last week’s all-day meeting at the Sports and Social Centre, Ballinaneesagh, was a twelve-strong union delegation led by senior officials, Walter Cullen and Sean Kelly. Representing management were the Director of Human Resources, Alan Browne, and the Director of Manufacturing, Dermot Barlow.
The union team went into the talks with the words spoken at the company’s annual general meeting by Waterford Wedgwood Chairman, Sir Anthony O’ Reilly, ringing in their ears. Commenting on the fact that the company was in the process of raising a further one-hundred million euro, Sir Anthony said:
“This new money will be used for the final root and branch restructuring of our business. We must, where possible, and cognisant of our heritage and brands, significantly reduce our manufacturing costs. The restructuring measures must be achieved before the end of the current fiscal year, March 2008.”
Workers’ fears were heightened by a Sunday Times report that claimed Waterford Wedgwood executives were in discussions with Ljubljana based glass manufacturer, Steklarna Rogaska, with a view to the Slovenian company producing up to 60 per cent of the Kilbarry output. The Eastern European company already manufactures Waterford Crystal’s Marquis range.
It is understood that the subject of the vital tank furnace at Kilbarry is also high on the list of matters for discussion. The present facility is due for a rebuild in about three years but, if the expected redundancies take place, a smaller throughput of molten glass will be required. The present Kilbarry furnace can produce 26 tons per day while the smaller furnace at the now closed Dungarvan plant had a capacity of 16 tons per day.