A mass meeting of about 350 Waterford Crystal workers took place in the Tower Hotel last night (Thursday) to hear Unite union representatives outline details of a set of redundancy proposals finalised this week after long and hard negotiations with management.

It was decided by a majority vote on a show of hands to allow the proposals to ‘go to survey’ which means management is free to post the details of the redundancy deal to individual employees without opposition from the union.

There was a lot of angry comment from the floor directed at management and one of the biggest rounds of applause came when the redundancy proposals on offer were described as ‘a bad deal’ and the ‘worst since 1987′. The company was roundly criticised for moving jobs abroad and for spending large amounts of money ‘buying and closing companies’.

Sources close to the situation say it is too early to gauge what the reaction of the employees will be to the proposals. “There is no doubt that many people will decide to accept the offer but the company may not get the numbers it wants, especially in the production area”, we were told.

“While it is a matter for another day, there could be serious repercussions within the company if enough people do not take up the offer as the possibility of short-time working and/or compulsory redundancy could then come into play”, said one source.

Following a breakdown of negotiations last week, chaired by Kevin Foley of the Labour Relations Commission, the company declared that short-time working would commence after Easter. However, negotiations commenced again this week that lasted all day and through the night until 5am on Tuesday and all day until 9pm on Wednesday.

The proposals that emerged from those marathon sessions were put to the workforce last night without a recommendation from the union. While Unite was opposed to any redundancies, it demanded a €40m package that would have matched the Dungarvan Crystal redundancy terms. Management’s initial offer was for a deal in the region of €21m but, in the end, the package put to the workers last night was worth about €28m.

Offer details

On offer is five-weeks-pay per year of service for the first 15 years, three-weeks-pay for the next 18 years and four-weeks-pay per year of service for each year after 23 years with a cap imposed of 156 weeks of service. All of that is inclusive of the two weeks statutory payment per year of service.

Roughly speaking, that would work out at €85,000 for a craft worker with 20 years service and €120,000 for a craft worker with 30 years service. Staff employees with 30 years service would also receive about €120,000. A semi-skilled worker with 30 years service would receive about €70 while an unskilled employee with 30 years service would receive circa €60,000.

Early retirement is on offer for people with 40 years service who are within five years of the official craft retirement age of 63. They would receive one year’s pay plus a lump sum and qualify for a single person’s social welfare payment until they reached the age of 63 when the company pension would kick in. In other words, craft people aged 58 years would be able to apply while non craft workers would have to be 60 years of age to apply.

It is understood that a very small concession was achieved for the 70 or so contract workers who were obliged to leave the company recently on a week’s notice.