About 173 workers returned to work this morning at the C&D Pet Food factory which was ravaged by a fire last month.
The Co Longford premises, established by former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds in 1969 and now run by his son Philip, was extensively damaged in the January 15 blaze.
A partial reopening of the Edgeworthstown plant today saw 135 staff resume duties in the soft can section. A further 38 workers returned to work in the office administration and outside yards.
Siptu officials today said they hoped the rest of the business, which was the biggest employer in the local area, could now be gradually rebuilt.
Assistant branch organiser Niall Philips said: “Siptu has built up a good relationship with management over the past few weeks and we are working hard to ensure most of the workers return to their jobs.”
The company produced 160 million cans of pet food last year and generated sales of around €100m.
C&D had contracts to supply major British supermarket chains including Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury’s.
Chief executive Philip Reynolds said customers had agreed to significant changes to commercial agreements to allow the company to reopen.
The plant paid about €250,000 in wages into the local economy every week and social welfare officials organised a special meeting to advise workers of their entitlements.
A garda forensic examination ruled out arson as the cause of the fire and blamed an industrial accident.