Waterford Crystal workers end sit-in at factory

 

ABOUT 90 per cent of workers at Waterford Crystal voted in favour of a package yesterday which ended the sit-in at the plant.

The deal will ensure the continuation of crystal manufacturing at the company’s factory in Kilbarry.

Hundreds of workers, members of trade union Unite, voted for the package that will retain 176 of the 480 jobs in Waterford.

About 80 of these workers will be “skilled artisans” and up to 35 other full-time and 50 part-time workers would be retained.

It was last week reported that about 250 jobs would be saved.

The vote marked the end of the sit-in at the company which began on January 30th after the company’s receiver, David Carson of Deloitte, shut down manufacturing after running out of cash.

Details of the package were outlined to union members gathered in the Tower Hotel in Waterford by John Foley of the Labour Relations Commission who chaired the four-hour meeting.

The jobs will be put in place over six months before being reviewed.

A private investment group, Prestige Co, led by Waterford-based architect Nicky Fewer, had over the past fortnight been in talks about retaining manufacturing in the city, along with a visitors’ centre.

Workers voted in favour of the plan, which will see the Kilbarry operate as a stand-alone entity with some exclusive manufacturing by Prestige for the Waterford Crystal brand.

A joint taskforce, which will “engage the workforce” and those who have been made redundant, is to be set up.

The meeting was held weeks after Mr Carson agreed to sell most of the assets of Waterford Crystal’s parent company, Waterford Wedgwood, to US investment firm KPS Capital Partners.

Although that deal does not include the Waterford Crystal manufacturing plant, it does include the Waterford Crystal brand and intellectual property.

KPS offered €10 million to workers in lieu of ex-gratia payments, but this was to be divided among more than 800 workers and ex-workers.

Mr Foley told workers that the possibility of achieving the operation outlined and €10 million fund, as negotiated with Unite and another union, Technical Engineering Electrical Union, would not exist if a transaction was “not completed immediately”.

Workers were told that KPS intended to “enter into a services agreement with Waterford Wedgwood for the provision of a range of back-office and related functions for up to six months.”

KPS said in a document that “the retention of some or all of these jobs would be reviewed at the end of this period”.

KPS proposes working with the Government and other interested parties to establish “a high quality Prestige factory and tourist facility” at Kilbarry.

There is as yet no resolution to the issue of the Waterford pension, according to Unite.

The union said proposals “will now be considered for action to be taken” by Unite and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions against the Government over its “non-compliance with European legislation on pension protection”.