A week after workers felt forced to take their destiny in their own hands, there’s still no news as to when a deal might be concluded to save crisis-torn Waterford Crystal.
An estimated 6,000 people took to the streets on Wednesday to show their solidarity with ‘Glass’ employees, who have been staging a sit-in at the Kilbarry factory since last Friday afternoon.
Union leaders are now planning a national day of workers’ solidarity in response to job losses and cutbacks throughout the country, with a protest planned for Dublin city centre on Valentine’s Day.
At the end of a march from Paddy Browns Road to the factory via WIT, led by the Thomas Meagher Fife and Drum Band, speaker after speaker – amid chants of “We Will Never Be Defeated” and “Deloitte, Deloitte, Deloitte – Out, Out, Out!” – condemned the Receiver’s bombshell decision to cease production and also the ‘mismanagement’ that caused the parent company’s collapse in the first place, as well a catastrophic pension fund deficit.
“It’s a national disgrace that you have no jobs, no redundancy and no pensions,” said local SIPTU branch secretary Marie Butler, adding: “We can’t do this on our own. We can’t stop this race to the bottom unless we get our workers into the relevant unions.”
Negotiations have been continuing all week between Receiver David Carson, two prospective US-based purchasers, Clarion Investments and KPS Capital Partners, and union officials.
Kilbarry staff are overwhelmingly in favour of the bid by Clarion – a consortium involving former Crystal CEO John Foley. They are committed to keeping the plant open for at least 10 years and doubling tourist turnover at the visitors centre.
Clarion advised Waterford Wedgwood on the double-your-money €200m sale of American kitchenware manufacturer All-Clad in 2004.
Waterford Trades Council President Tommy Hogan, who led the midweek demonstration alongside Mayor Jack Walsh, compared his colleagues’ treatment with those “who gorged themselves at the Celtic Tiger trough over the last 10 years.
“Those with the longest snouts: the bankers, who had their faces deepest in the trough, paid themselves in millions – executives, CEOs, their remuneration packages amounted to millions for years,” he said.
A message from Liverpool dockers was read out by Unite regional co-ordinator Sean Kelly, including a reminder of the support given by Crystal employees to those on Merseyside during their 28-month dispute.
Mr Kelly said the Receiver “under-estimated how resolute the workers would be… but there is light and a candle is burning… Let me tell you colleagues, comrades and friends: this is doable.”
Mr Carson maintains he was obliged to shut manufacturing operations a week ago, with the loss of 480 jobs, after using up the €8m he’d borrowed to maintain the business.