Ballinasloe angry over 60 job losses


There was angry reaction last night to the announcement that the US pen manufacturing firm, A.T. Cross, is to close remaining operations at its branch in Ballinasloe, Co Galway, with the loss of 60 jobs. The company expects to wind up its Irish operation by March 31st.

The chief executive officer of Ballinasloe Chamber of Commerce, Mr Colm Croffy, said there was a "palpable anger" in the town, because the company had given a commitment to retain 60 jobs in distribution and marketing this spring.

"We are quite devastated," Mr Croffy said. "The workforce didn't even have a Christmas party this year as they had just gone through the trauma of seeing 100 of their colleagues going through redundancy."

The "ugly side of global capitalism" had also been demonstrated, Mr Croffy said, claiming the management had served shareholders first in making the announcement on Wall Street yesterday before informing the staff.

The move comes 10 months after the company closed its manufacturing facility in the east Galway town with the loss of 100 jobs. Since then the operation has been confined to distribution. A.T. Cross had been a major employer in Ballinasloe for almost 28 years.

The company intends to consolidate Irish and US distribution at its headquarters in Lincoln, Rhode Island.

The company said yesterday it recently became aware of the need for "significant environmental remediation" on the Irish premises, at a cost of $1-$2 million. Once this "remediation" was complete, the plant would be sold.

A SIPTU branch secretary, Ms Tish Gibbons, while expressing disappointment, said she was not surprised at the decision. The company had never produced a plan for the future of the plant. She hoped to meet the management next Tuesday.

The union is seeking the same terms agreed for the last redundant workers. That package was worth 6 -1/2 weeks' salary for each year of service, plus statutory entitlements, with a cap of £22,750.

Mr David Whalen, president and chief executive of A.T. Cross, said he regretted there was no other option available to the company. "We are operating in a very competitive marketplace, and this action is part of our overall strategy to consolidate our business to ensure the future success of Cross.

"Our employees at Ballinasloe have been extremely competent and loyal," Mr Whalen added. "We intend to assist them in the coming months, where possible, in finding alternative employment."

After last February's announcement, the Tanaiste, Ms Harney, established an interagency group to respond to the needs of employees of A.T. Cross and to press for priority action on job creation in Ballinasloe.

One of the group's main terms of reference was to secure the maximum number of existing jobs at A.T. Cross. However, Ms Gibbons of SIPTU said little progress had been made and she had registered her dissatisfaction last October.

Several months ago it was confirmed that a French manufacturing company was to provide 60 new jobs over the next five years in a £7 million investment in Ballinasloe.