Tara crisis talks to resolve dispute under way

 

Management and union officials at Tara Mines are to enter a new talks process after meeting today to resolve a row over cost-cutting plans which threaten the future of 670 jobs.

“Siptu has engaged with management today and a process has been agreed to discuss all of the issues. No further comment will be made until the process is completed,” the union's national industrial secretary Gerry McCormack said.

Talks began this morning and continued this afternoon before agreement was reached.

Some 350 employees are members of Siptu.

Tara Mines in Navan is Europe’s largest zinc mine, producing around 200,000 tonnes of zinc and a further 40,000 tonnes of lead every year.

Last month miners were asked to radically reform work practices, with the company seeking to limit hours and bonuses as it battles the effect of low zinc prices and a weak dollar. Tara is paid in dollars for its zinc but incurs costs in euro, so the weakening of the dollar has caused problems for the company.

The costcutting package includes a pay freeze, no job losses and a reduction of bonuses to minimal levels. Most contentious among the proposals is a plan to move from a 5½ day cycle to continuous production over seven days.

However Siptu offered an alternative rescue plan, which the Swedish-owned firm rejected as it pushed towards putting workers on protective notice.

After a “long and heated” meeting in Navan last night, Siptu said its members agreed to further engagement with management.

“There was a lot of anger among members, especially over the company decision to write directly to members’ families at home in the week before Christmas over closing the mine,” Siptu National Industrial Secretary Gerry McCormack said.

“However, a consensus was reached by members that the union should re-engage with the company on all the issues following which any proposals emanating from the discussions will be put to them in a secret ballot," he said. “We particularly want a response from the company to the detailed proposals Siptu put to management on December 19th.”

Siptu claim management at Tara, which is run by Swedish-based mining company Boliden, pushed for cost-cutting in the run up to Christmas after zinc prices had fallen and the euro continued to make strong gains against the dollar and sterling.

Politicians yesterday pleaded with management and union leaders to reach a compromise to save some 670 jobs. The union also warned the local economy in Co Meath would be hit hard if the cost-cutting regime kicks in on January 19th, with up to three other jobs affected by every position lost.