Socialist Worker

Defiant Waterford Crystal occupation secures 176 jobs

by Simon Basketter
Issue No. 2144

Workers at Waterford Crystal in south east Ireland have ended their determined and inspirational occupation of their factory after eight weeks.

After a four-hour mass meeting last Sunday, which many described as tense and angry, workers voted in favour of a deal.

The company has been taken over by the private equity company KPS. Workers were told that there would be no deal at all if the takeover was “not completed immediately”.

The workers, members of the Unite union, reluctantly voted for an offer that will retain 176 of the 480 jobs.

This is less than the 250 promised at an earlier stage, but is 176 more than were available when bosses attempted to lock workers out in January.

Every worker Socialist Worker spoke to was certain that going into occupation was the right thing to do.

Government

One worker told Socialist Worker “It’s very sad, it’s a bitter pill to swallow. The government didn’t come on board with this whatsoever – we were on our own.

“The gun was put to our head. But we had no choice but to fight back and occupy.”

The vote marked the end of the sit-in which began on 30 January after the company’s receiver, Deloitte, tried to lock workers out of the factory.

The occupation has been a spur to workers across Ireland in the fight against the impact of the recession.

No government money has come forward. Instead a “joint taskforce” will be set up, which will apparently “engage the workforce” and those who have been made redundant.

KPS offered 10 million euros to workers in addition to statutory redundancy. This is to be divided among more than 800 workers and ex-workers. A number of ex-workers are owed money under a former redundancy scheme.

One worker told Socialist Worker, “This is a horrible deal. The new buzzword is that the glass will have the fingerprint of Waterford on it. The glass will just have that – a fingerprint.”

Tom Hogan, a former glass worker and president of Waterford trades council, told Socialist Worker, “The solution was to take the company into public ownership.

“Once the government stabbed the workers in the back it was always going to be difficult, but we would have got nothing if we hadn’t occupied.”

Many workers are furious that there has been no resolution to the issue of their pensions.

There is no pension protection scheme in Ireland. One worker said, “On the pensions, everyone been talking hard but little has really been done. It’ll end up in the European courts – which is fine except that people need their pensions today.”

Another said, “We have forced the private equity lot to recognise the union and we have saved some jobs. If we hadn’t occupied we would be at a queue at the local labour exchange.”


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International
Tue 24 Mar 2009, 17:56 GMT
Issue No. 2144
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