The Government stepped in last night to try to find a way to minimise job losses from the failed Waterford Crystal plant. Talks took place with company representatives over several hours. A source said every avenue for rescue would be explored.
It is understood, however, that nationalisation has been ruled out because of the massive cash injection that would be needed.
About 800 jobs are in jeopardy here after parent company Waterford Wedgwood went into receivership yesterday. Workers are employed at the glass manufacturing plant in Waterford city, the on-site visitor centre and in sales and administration. Hundreds more are at risk in the Wedgwood operations in Britain.
The company failed to find new investors in recent months and its directors, chairman Tony O’Reilly, his wife Chryss Goulandris, Redmond O’Donoghue and Patrick Molloy all resigned last night. Dr O’Reilly thanked employees and customers for their support. “We are consoled only by the fact that everything that could have been done, by management and by the board, to preserve the group, was done.”
Opposition parties and trade union officials, however, said much more could be done. “No stone must be left unturned by the receiver, or by the various state agencies, to ensure that the company is sold as a going concern,” said local Labour TD Brian O’Shea.
Unite trade union’s regional secretary Jimmy Kelly called for every effort to be made to save jobs. “The company is too important to the workers and their families, to the city of Waterford and to the nation as a whole to let it disappear.”
Waterford-based Arts, Sport and Tourism Minister Martin Cullen said the Government was intent on endeavouring to maintain the “essential Irishness” of the Waterford Crystal brand.
One option for the receiver is to split Waterford and Wedgwood in the hope of preserving either or both separately. Finding a buyer, however, who would retain an Irish presence is considered a gargantuan task.
The news came as the economy’s vital signs continued to weaken. The Department of Finance confirmed a deficit of €12.7bn in state finances for 2008 with predictions it could reach €17bn this year.
It is also expected Dell could make its long-feared announcement about the future of 2,000 jobs in Limerick as early as Thursday.