200 jobs to go as Navan Carpets closes

 

Staff at Navan Carpets in Co Meath were told yesterday that the company had gone into voluntary liquidation and a court-appointed liquidator was to be put in place.

During a mass meeting, the 200 workforce heard the managing director blame the downturn in the global market as one of the factors in the company's decision.

"Our sales fell substantially in 2002 due to problems in America following September 11th; half of our manufactured product is exported to the States and there is no sign of demand for it lifting," said Mr John Ryan. Mr David Hughes of Ernst & Young was appointed as liquidator and yesterday was at the company's offices in Navan where it has been a major employer since 1935.

Mr Ryan said the exchange rate between the euro and US dollar also hit their margins "by 30 per cent" and "the board feels the best way to go is the liquidation route". He confirmed the company lost €1.5 million last year and continues to lose money. "Our home market was very important to us but it started to slip in January for us and I don't see a future for manufacturing here," he said.

The Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Ms Harney, regretted the announcements about Navan Carpets and Powerscreen Limited in Kilbeggan. "The closure of such long-established companies will come as a great shock to these workers and their communities."

However, she understood the decisions followed a dramatic fall in sales both internationally and on the home market. She said finding replacement employment would not be easy but she would do everything possible "to ensure that these workers receive all the necessary assistance and retraining that may be necessary for future opportunities".

Workers at Navan Carpets said they were shocked and "disgusted" at the company's decision. Senior SIPTU shop steward Mr Noel Reynolds said the company should have asked the courts to appoint an examiner, "but now we are at the mercy of a guy we know nothing about".

He said the 200 workers accepted a pay freeze in July 2001 and "have co-operated with them in every way yet it was still not enough to save our jobs. I have been here 24 years and to think it has come to this. It is a devastating blow for Navan".

"I am devastated, I have been here 18 years and we have been laid off before but always taken back on," said Ms Kathleen Murtagh. Mr Michael Flood (20) has only been with the company for two years but has a new mortgage. "I am disgusted, this came out of the blue for us. There was talk of the company being in trouble but it stopped. I don't think I will get another job in Navan, I will have to go outside the town now."

SIPTU national executive member Mr Tommy Grimes said: "It is an absolutely dreadful day for Navan particularly following the job losses in Crannac furniture, something will have to be done for jobs in Co Meath." The Crannac furniture plant is due to close later this month with the loss of 22 jobs.

Former Taoiseach Mr John Bruton said: "The failure of the Government to pursue a policy to contain cost inflation in Ireland" was responsible for the difficulty facing Navan Carpets. "High domestic inflation has been aggravated by the recent increase in the value of the euro relative to the dollar and sterling. This has further worsened the competitive position of companies exporting from Ireland.

"We need a government in Ireland that will put competitiveness at the top of the political agenda," he said.

Labour spokesperson on Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Mr Brendan Howlin, said warnings from industry that this year would be the worst for job losses for many years was turning out to be accurate.

He blamed inflation and the failure of the Tánaiste to tackle the cost of insurance for making an already difficult situation impossible for some companies.