€32m needed to save IFI

CUTS of €32m are needed to secure the future of Irish Fertiliser Industry, according to a preliminary report presented to Tánaiste Mary Harney yesterday.

Workers’ representatives at the ailing company said yesterday that they had agreed to wage cuts of 10%, saving IFI €3.8 million, as part of their contribution to keeping the plants at Arklow, Cork and Belfast viable.

A spokesman for the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment said senior plant management had provided an outline of a revised business plan, which it was hoped would protect the firm and more than 600 jobs from the effects of an excessive supply of fertiliser on the European market.

IFI declined to comment on the exact nature of the business plan but confirmed that it contained radical and challenging cost-reduction targets, which would enable the company to continue trading during difficult market conditions. The plan was given to the Tánaiste’s office yesterday following discussions between department officials, shareholders’ representatives and the board of management at IFI.

IFI worker director Stephen O’Riordan said employees were happy to take wage cuts in the hope of saving the company, especially the most vulnerable plant at Marino Point, Cobh, Co Cork.

“One of the main areas we hope to make cuts is in the transmission of gas to Marino Point. It costs €2 million to transport the gas from Russia to a pumping station in Moffat, Scotland.

“However, it costs €13 million to pipe the gas from Scotland to Cork. We feel that Bord Gáis should drastically reduce the price because we’re completely at a disadvantage compared to our European competitors,” Mr O’Riordan said. Progressive Democrats chairman John Minihan said he had asked the Tánaiste to investigate the high cost of gas supply to the company. He said he also hoped that IFI would be given the necessary time it needed to come up with final proposals for making the company more viable.

Workers say efficiency can be increased and that a more dynamic approach should be taken in selling IFI fertiliser.“We would like to see more sales on the Irish market, as IFI has only a 40% share in the South and a 60% share in the North,” Mr O’Riordan said.

Workers’ representatives are to meet with senior management on Thursday to discuss in more detail cost-cutting measures. Port of Cork Company chairman Dermot O’Mahoney denied rumours that his company was actively seeking to acquire the site for its own purposes, and he wished the IFI chairman and board every success in their effort to secure the future of the plant.

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