Waterford Crystal workers are seething with anger this afternoon after the receiver suddenly announced that the company was to cease production with immediate effect, prompting a mass sit-in by staff.
At 3.20pm, shortly after workers were informed of the decision and told to leave the premises, a group of between 60 and 70 employees gathered and attempted to re-enter the building through the doors of the visitor gallery. However, they were held back by security staff who have been on site over the last number of weeks.
It’s reported that a pane of glass was smashed and at least one employee suffered minor injuries before Gardai arrived on the scene amid scuffles and heated verbal exchanges between workers and the private security personnel, whom Unite’s regional organiser Walter Cullen accused of heavy-handedness.
Stressing that “there’s a lot of emotion here”, he and shop stewards briefed staff, who’ve also occupied other parts of the plant, shortly after 4pm.
Jim Power, chief economist with Friends First, said he was surprised at today’s dramatic turn of events – which, he presumed, was as a result of the prospective purchasers being unwilling to cover the firm’s existing pension fund liabilities, and/or they were unable to come up with the money to buy the business.
With positive soundings about a possible US takeover right up to this morning, at around 3pm those workers in the plant (which has been on a three-day week for the past fortnight) were told that the company had been liquidated with immediate effect and were asked to leave the premises.
Within an hour of the news breaking, hundreds of employees had converged on the site, all in determined mood, intending to stay put until they talk directly to representatives of the court-appointed receiver, David Carson of Deloitte Ireland.
Unite’s Irish organiser and long-time Crystal union official Jimmy Kelly said he received an unconfirmed phone call after lunch and immediately contacted the receiver who confirmed the news. He’s since been onto the ICTU and senior Government sources.
Condemning the way things have been handled, he demanded that workers “be treated with decency and respect” and warned “we’re not going to sit by and watch everything be dismantled and sold off.”
It’s understood that no more time was granted by the company’s American bankers to try and find a buyer. “Unless there’s some dramatic turn of events it’s the end of the road for the company unfortunately,” said Jim Power, adding it “would certainly appear to the case that the workers have no comeback.”
Acknowledging it was “an absolute financial disaster for people”, with no pension insurance system in place in, the Clonea-Power native said workers who are not yet retired, i.e. future pensioners, “are being hung out to dry”; though the company’s existing pensioners should be okay.
“The plug has been pulled” and unless some white knight mounts a last-minute rescue “it would appear to be the end of the road,” he said.
Mr Power said an investor could come along in due course and try to buy the company from the liquidator and try to restart it as a going concern, albeit “anywhere in the world.”
Deputy Brendan Kenneally (FF) described it was “a very black day for Waterford.”