Article from the May 2005 edition, the Socialist
paper of the Socialist Party, the CWI in Ireland.
Waterford Crystal 500 job cuts
Dungarvan to lose "jewel in the crown"
by Matt Waine
THE ANNOUNCMENT of nearly 500 job losses at Waterford Crystal is a major blow to the people of Dungarvan. Over 5% of Dungarvan's population work at the plant, and this closure is equivalent to 10,000 job losses in Cork. This is the way hundreds of loyal workers have been repaid for their years of work. The interests of billionaire tax cheat Sir Anthony O'Reilly, chairman of Waterford Wedgewood, are more important than 500 workers and their families who now face a bleak future.
These draconian job cuts are part of a worldwide restructuring programme of 1,800 job losses "so that the company is returned to profitability." While workers have to make do with a paltry redundancy package of six weeks pay for every year worked, capped at 16 years, (some workers have up to 40 years service) management gloated to the financial world that they wanted to become the Ryanair of its sector - a "low-cost operator in the luxury lifestyle sector." It will certainly be a luxury lifestyle for the shareholders, but it will be Ryanair conditions for the workers and their families.
Last year, when the company recorded pre-tax losses of e45 million, Chief Executive John Foley received a e180,000 wage increase, bringing his wages up to e672,000 per annum.
It's not just the current workers who will lose out. Decently paid craft jobs for the youth of the area are being wiped out in a heartless move to shore up the profits of people who are already super rich.
The ATGWU has rejected compulsory redundancies and are arguing for a better redundancy package. The trade union movement needs to get behind these workers and fight a battle to save the jobs and the Durgarvan plant. The company's books should be made public and the board of directors should be sacked with no golden handshakes. If Tony O'Reilly is not prepared to maintain the Durgarvan plant, then the state should take the company into public ownership.
Michael Martin has talked about a task force to help people retrain and attract other employment to the town. Yes - a task force should be established, but it should be made up of the Waterford Crystal workers, the unions and the people of Durgarvan and Waterford city in a campaign to save all these jobs. If such a campaign was established, it could also link up with the 160 workers facing redundancy in Germany, and the 950 workers in Wedgwood and Royal Doulton in Britain in an international fight against Tony O'Reilly's cuts.