Fears grow for 400 jobs at three pigmeat factories


JOBS CRISIS:FEARS ARE growing for 400 jobs in three pigmeat-producing factories beside each other on the Waterford/Kilkenny border.

Dawn Pork and Bacon and Kiely Meats based in Grannagh, Co Kilkenny, just outside Waterford city, have temporarily closed with the loss of 370 jobs, while workers at the adjacent Countrystyle Foods plant are being employed taking in recalled pork and may be laid off in the coming days.

Siptu now estimates 1,800 workers have been laid off as a result of the crisis as talks between the producers and the Government over a compensation package continue without agreement.

Dawn, which is the biggest of the three plants in Co Kilkenny, employs 300 workers at its slaughtering facility.

There were long queues outside the social welfare offices yesterday in Waterford city as about 200 workers from the affected plants signed on.

One worker, who has been with Dawn Pork and Bacon for more than 15 years, said the hardest thing for employees to face was the lack of certainty about their future.

"We haven't a clue if we'll be called back in days, weeks or longer," he said.

"Everybody is waiting on phone calls but the reality for management is that they don't even know."

Dawn supplies Kiely Meats which is involved in processed pork products such as sausages, bacon and black and white pudding.

Kiely employs 68 workers, while Countrystyle Foods, which markets and distributes Kiely Meats products, has a workforce of about 30.

"All of our sales people are out with empty vans and a letter of comfort explaining the situation, and they are in the process of bringing volumes of stuff back," said Countrystyle sales manager Pat Lawless.

"We've kept everybody busy doing necessary but unproductive work over the last two days, but we're reviewing the situation on a day-to-day basis.

"I think it is morally wrong to dump this stuff."

Along with the jobs in Co Kilkenny, 230 staff at the Olhausen plants at Coolock, Blanchardstown, Monaghan, Cork and Galway were let go yesterday.

A statement from the company said it had taken the decision with "great regret", and hoped it was only a short-term measure.

"The talks at Government level to resolve the current issue are progressing, and Olhausen management are hopeful that operations can resume upon successful conclusion of those talks," the company said.

Another 115 jobs went at Granby Ltd in Dublin, Drover Foods Ltd in Wexford, and Oakpark Foods in Cahir, Tipperary.

On Monday more than 1,000 workers were put on protective notice, including 850 at the Co Offaly-based pork producer Rosderra. Workers at the company headquarters in Edenderry held a meeting yesterday morning.

Sitpu official Frank Jones said: "There are a lot of Hungarian and Polish workers who did not understand the situation yesterday, but understand it now.

"Our plea is now to the Government to come in and offer us an assistance package to get us back to work.

"We have no word on how the talks are doing. If the producers are not compensated they will close down. They simply can't take the heat on this one."

Sitpu national industrial secretary Gerry McCormack expressed some relief that there would be no similar layoffs in the beef industry following the announcement that only a small number of herds were affected by contaminated feed and there would be no general recall of beef products.

"It should be possible to protect public health fully and maintain consumer confidence without resorting to the sort of indiscriminate measures used in the case of the pig industry," he said.