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Waterford group working to re-establish glass manufacturing

Post Time:Mar 24,2009Classify:Company NewsView:416

AN INVESTMENT group in Waterford has started working to re-establish the manufacturing of crystal at Kilbarry.

The majority of Waterford Crystal workers, at a meeting in the city on Sunday, voted in favour of a package that ended the seven-week sit-in at the plant, with the retention of 176 jobs at Kilbarry for at least six months.

The meeting was held weeks after the company’s appointed receiver, David Carson of Deloitte, agreed to sell most of the assets of Waterford Crystal’s parent company, Waterford Wedgwood, to US investment firm KPS Capital Partners.

KPS offered €10 million to workers in lieu of ex-gratia payments, while this is to be divided among more than 800 workers and ex-workers.

The vote, among members of union Unite, resulted in the end of the sit-in which began on January 30th after Mr Carson ceased manufacturing at the plant after running out of cash.

A private investment group, Prestige Co, led by Waterford-based businessman and architect Nicky Fewer, introduced proposals for retaining the manufacturing of high-end crystal products for supply to KPS, along with a visitors’ centre.

The plan will see Kilbarry operate as a stand-alone entity with some exclusive manufacturing by Prestige for the Waterford Crystal brand.

KPS said in a document that the retention of “some or all” of the jobs would be reviewed at the end of the six-month period.

KPS proposes working with the Government and other interested parties to establish “a high-quality Prestige factory and tourist facility” at Kilbarry.

Mr Fewer yesterday said: “We would hope that, as part of the whole regeneration process, that we would be able to develop an iconic shop and an iconic visitors’ centre right in the city centre which would actually underpin our whole city centre regeneration.”

Mr Fewer maintained that the number of tourists into the city could be doubled or trebled should the visitors’ centre be “located in the right location”.

Meanwhile, manufacturing could be reintroduced in “early 2010”, while discussions regarding how the job selection process is to be undertaken have yet to begin, according to regional industrial organiser with Unite Walter Cullen.

Mr Cullen criticised the Government for allowing an equity fund to come into Ireland to “plunder the brand name . . . and to allow them to take [Waterford Crystal] out of here and to manufacture it around the world is a national scandal”.

“The minimum they should have done was purchased the brand themselves.” He described the “Government’s inaction” as an “absolute disgrace”.

Regarding the pension scheme, Mr Cullen said the Government’s failure to fulfil their obligations under the EU pensions solvency directive resulted in “workers who have contributed to pension schemes all their lives now facing significant reductions in their benefits [and] in some cases, none . . . We have no intention of allowing that to continue on; as far as we’re concerned the Government has an obligation . . . and we’re going to ensure they deliver on that obligation and if that requires pursuing a legal route, then that’s what we’ll have to do.”

Source: irishtimes.comAuthor: shangyi

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