Thousands to attend Waterford jobs protest


THOUSANDS OF people are expected to attend a street protest in Waterford today against job losses at Waterford Crystal. It comes after Waterford Crystal workers staged a protest for several hours at the offices of Deloitte Touche in Dublin yesterday.

Thirteen Waterford Wedgwood workers entered the reception area of Deloitte Touche’s headquarters on Earlsfort Terrace in protest at the actions of Deloitte partner David Carson, who was appointed receiver to the ailing glassware company last month.

Mr Carson took the decision to close Waterford’s Kilbarry plant on Friday, prompting a sit-in protest there by workers.

Workers, taking turns in six-hour shifts, have been staging a sit-in at the gallery showroom in Waterford since Friday, with up to 100 in the gallery at any one time.

Four workers who entered the Deloitte building at 11am were told by security personnel to leave and gardaí were called to remove them. After a meeting between two Waterford workers and Deloitte senior partners, the protest ended.

Unite union member Tom Hogan, who led the protest, said: “We have made our point . . . and [we] have brought the message to each of the 1,100 workers employed by Deloitte that there was grave disappointment in the actions undertaken by their firm. We will now return to Waterford where our efforts to keep Waterford Crystal alive ahead of a sale will continue.”

Echoing the sentiment, regional organiser with Unite, Walter Cullen, said: “Maintaining the plant as a going concern is essential to keep hope alive in the bids that have been made . . . if Deloitte is not willing to do that, then we will,” he said.

It is understood the union favours a buy-out plan by Clarion Capital, which could retain manufacturing at Kilbarry, while proposals by New York-based private-equity firm KPS plan on keeping the crystal brand and not the jobs in Waterford.

A rally in Waterford, the second since the sit-in started on Friday, is planned for today at 3.45pm. Protesters will gather at the AIB bank at Paddy Brown’s Road and march down the Cork Road to the showroom car park.

The president of the Waterford Congress of Trade Unions (WCTU), Dick Roche, said: “We’re hoping that we can mobilise the whole city with the bit of time and notice that we have [had].”

A protest organised by the WCTU at Waterford Crystal last Saturday attracted more than 3,000 people. Mr Roche said that the issue was not only about “the glass”, but about an “ongoing attack on workers across the country”.

Meanwhile, a Save Waterford Crystal campaign set up on the social networking site, Facebook, has so far attracted over 2,600 members.

Conor Ryan, on the site, wrote: “We, in the city, remember who it was who supported the fundraisers, draws, sponsorships etc during the bad years of the 1970s and 1980s. It is their time of need now and we must not let them down.” Pat Dwan added: “Keep up the protests, perhaps Tony O’Reilly would like to donate some of his personal wealth to help keep the glass afloat.”