Campaign aims to save 200 IFI jobs

A HUGE campaign to safeguard the future of the 200-job Irish Fertiliser Industries plant in Cork harbour is underway.

The part state-owned company contributes 16.5m euro to the Cork economy, workers emphasised yesterday.

They anticipated a closure announcement on Tuesday next but enterprise and employment junior Minister Michael Ahern revealed yesterday shareholders will now keep the plant open, pro tem, as they actively seek a new owner.

IFI management are believed to have now deferred a decision on the future of the threatened plant until the end of September.

In the meantime, the plant’s unions are to seek a meeting with the Taoiseach Mr Ahern, Tanaiste Ms Harney and senior Cork-based ministers Joe Walsh and Micheál Martin. Farmers groups, the IFA and the ICMSA, will also be petitioned for support.

Workers have invited public representatives and all civic organisations to a meeting at St Colman’s Park, Cobh, on Friday.

An over-supply of fertiliser products throughout Europe has put the Marino Point facility at risk.

Worker director Stephen O’Riordan said the closure would leave Ireland as the only country in the EU without an indigenous fertiliser industry.

He said countrywide, IFI boosted the economy by 138m euro yearly with semi-state agencies Bord Gais, Irish Rail and the ESB benefiting to the tune of 40m euro.

“Unless the Government has some other agenda for the use of Marino Point, it would be a senseless decision to let it close,” said Mr O’Riordan.

He estimated the closure and dismantling of the plant would cost the State 100m euro.

“We have a long-established workforce with an average age profile of 50,” said Mr O’Riordan. “The job prospects for the IFI workers would be minimal.”

Minister Ahern assured workers he would underline to the Cabinet the importance of keeping the plant open. Downturn in the fertiliser market coupled with rising production costs and wet weather has put a strain on the industry.

Chamber of Commerce bodies in Cork and Cobh have also expressed concern about the troubled plant’s future of the plant. Cobh spokeswoman Margaret Martin said: “A shutdown at Marino Point would have a disastrous impact on the economy of the whole harbour area.”

An IFI spokesman said yesterday the company was continuing to consider its options, including closure.

SIPTU’s regional secretary Joe O’Flynn, who visited the IFI plant yesterday, said: “Workers are prepared to do everything within their power to keep the plant open and the Government will have to match that goodwill.

“I’m disappointed the Government, as a major shareholder, is considering closure. If a multinational was to announce 200 new jobs for this area, the Government would be laying down the red carpet and throwing every resource at their disposal.”

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