Workers feel betrayed wage cut deal not accepted to save IFI

BETRAYAL — that was the word workers used to describe yesterday’s 620 job losses at Irish Fertilizer Industries.

Employees at the Marino Point plant in Cobh, Co Cork, always knew they were the most vulnerable of the three plants if the axe was to fall. But they had hoped their offer to take large wage cuts would save not just their operation but the other IFI plants as well.

Stephen O’Riordan, workers’ representative at Marino Point, accused the Government and company shareholders of “betrayal”.

Mr O’Riordan said there was a possibility workers would sit in at the plant if they were not given adequate redundancy packages.

He said he was angry a €31 million rescue package, which included workers at the three plants taking 3.8m cuts in wages, had not been treated seriously by shareholders including the Government and the British multinational ICI.

There was equal gloom in Arklow where another 200 jobs are to be lost.

Arklow workers’ spokesman Dave Morris said employees were very disappointed the rescue package hadn’t been taken up.

“The workforce felt we were making a contribution and we were doing everything we could,” Mr Morris said.

He said some colleagues had worked in the Arklow plant since its foundation 37 years ago.

“The average length of employment is around 20 years and most employees are in their late 40s. The emphasis will now be on getting a decent severance package,” Mr Morris said.

He added that for nearly every person employed in the plant there was another person employed on contract to supply services such as cleaning, haulage and maintenance.

“The wages of the plant’s employees alone are worth more than 10m a year to Arklow,” he said.

Local Fine Gael TD Billy Timmins said he was angered by the Government’s approach. “It’s not something that happened overnight. If it (the State) had moved earlier some of the jobs might have been saved,” he said.

He described the Arklow plant as the jewel in the crown of south-east Wicklow and said the plant’s closure would devastate the local economy.

The same scenario was spelt out in Cork by Michael McCormack, acting president of Cobh and Harbour Chamber of Commerce.

“I’m shocked. IFI was the last of Cobh’s big industries and its loss will have a huge knock-on effect,” Mr McCormack said.

He said small contractors would lose business as would larger operators like Irish Rail, the Port of Cork and Cork County Council.

Labour county councillor John Mulvihill said the Government had done nothing when other local large plants such as Irish Ispat, East Cork Foods and Youghal Carpets closed in recent years.

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