On the positive side agreement on new work practices has ensured the continued viability of Tara Mines in Co Meath.
However, in Kilkenny, management at Galmoy Mines, which had not been due to close down until 2010, have revealed they will be accelerating the winding down of operations at the mine with 200 jobs to go this May.
Earlier this month Tara Mines in Navan placed its 670 staff on protective notice, telling them if agreement was not reached on new cost-saving measures it would start laying staff off from today.
It blamed the need for cost cuts on a fall of almost 70% in the price of zinc in the past 12 months, as well as the decline in the value of the dollar, in which international zinc prices are denominated.
SIPTU, which represents a large proportion of the workers, balloted its members on the savings, which involved new shift patterns and new pay terms which would involve less overtime payment.
The miners voted 59% in favour of accepting a new production cycle and 55% in favour of the new pay terms.
The union’s branch organiser John Regan said: “The tightness of the vote, especially on pay, shows that a lot still needs to be done by the company on how it implements the new terms. We will also be awaiting the outcome of ballots by white collar, supervisory and craft workers.”
The union said lay-offs at the mine would have had huge implications for Navan, with more than 2,000 other jobs in the town and environs dependent on continued work in the mine.
The Navan facility is Europe’s largest zinc producer with about 200,000 tonnes of the metal and 40,000 tonnes of lead every year.
Meanwhile at Galmoy Mines, SIPTU national industrial secretary Gerry McCormack said: “Because of market conditions some of the redundancies are being brought forward so that operations cease by May 2009. However I can confirm that the company is honouring the terms of the redundancy agreement it negotiated with SIPTU last year.”
Galmoy Mines has operated in the area since 1996.
Local Fine Gael TD Phil Hogan said: “These job losses will cripple the region and my thoughts to go out to the 200 workers and their families. In the last three months, an average of 510 people lost their job everyday and today’s losses are further proof that the economy is in freefall with no strategy from the Government to tackle this crisis.”
Meanwhile, United Drug has blamed the “acute economic circumstances” for a restructuring programme that will see 90 jobs axed from its Irish operation.