IFI workers demand Government move to save jobs

WORKERS and union officials from the troubled Irish Fertiliser Industries (IFI) plant in Cork harbour last night demanded that the Government take action to prevent the loss of 200 jobs.

Concern has been mounting over the summer, with rumours the plant may be facing closure in the future.

It is believed that unless the Government agrees to a 10m rescue package, the loss-making ammonia plant may be forced to close.

Last night workers, union officials and worker’s representatives held an urgent public meeting in Cobh, Co Cork, to discuss the plant’s future and demand answers from the Government. The plant is 51% owned by the State.

“Did the Irish people give Fianna Fáil a mandate to close IFI down, given that it’s the only producer of fetiliser in Ireland and brings in 140m to the national economy and 16.5 million to the local economy?” asked worker representative Stephen O’Riordan, who chaired last night’s meeting.

Mr O’Riordan said the Government had to respond and make clear its intentions for the IFI facility. “We need to know one thing. What’s their position in relation to closure? Our senior management are in the dark, the board are in the dark, the employees are in the dark and the Tánaiste is refusing to tell us what’s going on. At the moment she has cut off all relations with the company,” he said.

But the two cabinet ministers invited to attend last night’s meeting, Health Minister Micheál Martin and Agriculture Minister Joe Walsh were not present, although Mr Martin is meeting worker’s representatives on Monday.

Mr O’Riordan expressed disappointment that Mr Walsh had failed to respond to workers’ concerns. “I’m very disappointed that Joe Walsh can’t respond to our calls. He is coming across to me as being reluctant to meet us. He is a key player and he needs to understand the seriousness of the situation,” Mr O’ Riordan said.

It is thought that a meeting between shareholders and the board on Tuesday will be crucial to IFI’s future.

The plant has been on the market for over three years and the Department of Enterprise this week confirmed that it is still in negotiations with possible buyers for the Cork plant.

Junior Enterprise Minister Michael Ahern has said the plant will be kept open temporarily until a buyer can be found but the move has angered workers, who say the Government should tide the company over with a cash injection instead of selling

Last night, SIPTU regional secretary Joe Flynn said he hoped to raise the issue with the Tánaiste and Taoiseach.

“If this was inward investment the State would have no problem helping out,” he said.

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