SIPTU has called for the Government, Enterprise Ireland and Fás to help the workers retrain and find alternative employment as the company gradually winds down between now and 2011.
The first in a series of cuts is scheduled this December, when 36 employees will be made redundant, and the job losses will then be staggered across 2009 and 2010 with the mine scheduled to finally close in 2011.
However, it’s not certain that it will last to 2011 given the economic circumstances surrounding zinc mining.
It’s believed that a variety of factors have prompted the decision to close the mine, including rising oil prices, falling zinc prices and the fact that the remaining zinc on the north Kilkenny site — already nearing the end of its natural lifespan — is buried too far underground to make it economically viable to extract.
Galmoy Mines has operated in the area — close to the border with mid-Tipperary — since 1996 and many of the workers have been there since it opened.
However, the writing has been on the wall since January when it first emerged that it was becoming uneconomic to mine for the zinc.
“It’s a desperate situation,” said SIPTU representative Dennis Hynes, yesterday. “The mood is very gloomy at the moment. It’s very hard now for the workers to plan their future, even if you wanted something like a car loan it would be difficult now to get one.”
He hoped that the relevant authorities would become “more engaged” in trying to help SIPTU’s Ideas Institute to get the mine staff retrained and to help them acquire the skills necessary to attain other jobs.
“There’s nothing they can do for these jobs but they should look beyond that,” said Mr Hynes. “We were first made aware that things were looking poor last January. We were always hopeful and they were still telling us they were drilling in certain areas and they were hoping something might turn up, but it wasn’t to be.”
Following overnight negotiations with management on Thursday and yesterday, SIPTU secured a redundancy package worth 6.75 weeks’ pay per year of service for the 221 workers.
However, the news is also bad for people whose income depends to a large extent on the mine, such as hauliers and suppliers who do business with Galmoy on a regular basis.