IFI staff to protest over payments

IRISH Fertilizer Industry workers from three plants North and South of the Border will protest outside the Tánaiste’s Dublin office next Thursday over redundancy payments and cuts in some pension funds.

The closure of IFI, the State’s fertiliser company, with the loss of 620 jobs, will hit workers in Belfast first when they are laid off at the end of the week.

The 170 workers in Richardson’s Fertilisers in Belfast may only receive 40% of their pension entitlements because of the shortfall in the company’s pension fund, according to former Northern Industry Minister Reg Empey.

The Labour Party last night called on Tánaiste Mary Harney to ensure the Belfast workers get full pension payments.

Tommy Broughan, Labour spokesman on enterprise, trade and employment said the Government is the effective owner of the company and thus has a duty to ensure all employees get their pension payments.

But Junior Trade and Commerce Minister Michael Ahern rejected claims there would be a 25 million shortfall in the pension fund of IFI workers in Cork or Arklow. Mr Ahern said this cannot happen because there is strict legislation to protect pension funds. Meanwhile, the board of IFI’s holding company, NET, met in Cork yesterday to discuss how they can top up redundancy payments for IFI’s 620 workers.

Mary Harney’s spokeswoman confirmed last night that the NET board was trying to devise a mechanism to top up statutory redundancy payments.

Ms Harney has given a commitment in the Dáil the IFI workers would get a “fair and reasonable package above the statutory minimum redundancy”.

But her spokeswoman could not say what decision had been made by the NET board last night. All these details will not be finalised until the liquidator is appointed next week.

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