Saturday, February 14, 2009

As the following item from the Irish Herald indicates the workers who have been occupying the Waterford Crystal factory in Ireland are less than satisfied by the latest offer on the part of the receivers. It is indeed insulting, offering a buyout of about 12,000 euros per worker at a time of high unemployment and with no regard to the age or experience of the workers involved. The question comes back to what Molly has presented here before. Are the workers willing to go to "plan B", despite the fact that this wouldn't enter the minds of the union that represents them, to turn the factory into a producers' cooperative ? Any further offers are likely to be at least as desultory.
Crystal staff cool on offer:
Waterford Crystal workers have reacted negatively to the reported offer of €10m to be shared among its 800 current and former employees.

The Bank of America which, in effect, owns the company, said it is willing to give the settlement to the crystal workers, but many described the offer as derisory and insulting. Some said the offer amounts to about €12,000 per person.

The mass meeting of employees heard that New York-based private equity firm KPS is the front-runner to buy Waterford Wedgwood.

But it said it could guarantee only 120 jobs with another 120 on rolling six-month contracts. This figure compares to the 800 people who were working at the facility before Christmas. The company was placed in receivership last month after it failed to make interest payments to holders of its corporate debt on time in the closing weeks of last year.

A group of workers has been engaged in a sit-in at the visitor centre at Kilbarry for two weeks in protest at the loss of their jobs.

The meeting voted to continue the occupation of the site and would continue to push for a formula for payments to employees. Union representatives want to have a further three to four days to find a solution for those who were made redundant recently.

A deal between KPS Capital and the plant is likely to be concluded within the coming days.
As the following item from the Irish Times lays out the UNITE union that represents the workers at Waterford seems more than likely to support a less than satisfactory resolutions and will encourage the workers to do the same. Once more not a single thought of a "Plan B", merely an attempt to struggle over scraps.
Union backs talks with US company:
WATERFORD CRYSTAL: TRADE UNION officials last night recommended Waterford Crystal workers continue their occupation at the Kilbarry plant and support negotiations with KPS Capital after the equity firm offered €10 million to them in lieu of ex-gratia payments.

About 600 workers attended an open branch meeting for Unite trade union members.

No ballot on the offer has taken place yet.

Speaking after the meeting, regional industrial organiser Walter Cullen said: “We need to devise a formula; a mechanism for which that €10 million is going to be allocated in a fair and equitable way. (In other words accepting the idea that this is the best that can be obtained-Molly)

“We need clarification in relation to jobs . . . we now need to re-engage with the receiver and with KPS.

“Our members are still very angry with the process that they’re in. Nobody was jumping up and down in excitement with the announcement of €10 million when you think of the number of people involved in that.”

Unite’s Irish regional secretary Jimmy Kelly said jobs would need to be saved in the Visitors’ Centre, Gallery and administration functions at Kilbarry.

Said Mr Kelly: “The deal which is on the table at present secures jobs, money for those without jobs and the strong prospect of a long-term manufacturing future for Waterford Crystal in Waterford.”

He said the issue of pension protection is being addressed with Government and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.
Is all lost ? Maybe yes and maybe no. What is certain is that the tactic of factory occupations is destined to spread across the world as closures multiply. Here's a prediction from a source that could hardly be said to be happy about this eventuality, the Accountancy Age. This could hardly be said to be the wishful dreams of the left.
Wedgwood sit-in is the first of many:
The Wedgewood Waterford workers' protest over the administration may become a trend, say experts
Written by David Jetuah
Accountancy Age, 12 Feb 2009
The occupation of a Waterford Wedgewood factory by workers in protest over the company being put into administration represents a new worry for insolvency practitioners.

Experts believe the sit-in protest by angry workers at the Waterford Wedgewood crystal factory in Ireland is unlikely to be a one-off incident.

The protest at the 250-year-old crystal and crockery maker was still continuing as Accountancy Age went to press.

Last week 13 workers at the company also marched into the head office reception of the company’s auditor Deloitte to protest over the actions of the receiver David Carson.

The deadlock at Deloitte’s office only ended after a meeting between two Waterford workers and Deloitte senior partners.

James Money(a more appropriate name I couldn't have dreamed up in any of my delirious fantasies-Molly), restructuring and recovery services director at Smith & Williamson, says that similar protests may occur in other hard-hit industries, such as the car and steel sectors.

Administrators have the same powers as company management when people trespass on company property, including the right to press charges against those causing criminal damage.(Ah yes says Molly, but the application of these laws is entirely dependent on the political climate prevalent at the time. If such measures are too unpopular they won't be applied.)

‘When a company goes into administration and somebody does something illegal, the same laws still apply,’ says Money.

Dealing with staff who are understandably angry and upset is tough, but insolvency practitioners can help maintain good relations with staff by keeping them informed about business developments, taking care not to raise unrealistic expectations, Nick Hood, a partner at insolvency specialist Begbies Traynor says.

‘The key is to make the workforce understand what is happening. The real know-how comes in carrying them with you as you’re doing your job.

‘There’s a hardening of attitudes among the workforce because, for very good reason, they are frightened for their jobs in what is a very tricky economic situation,’ says Hood.

‘It does make your job more difficult so IPs will have to pay more attention to the likelihood of this happening than previously. My golden rule is never make promises to the workforce that you can’t deliver.’

Ultimately, however, the administrator has to act in the interest of the creditor. ‘You can’t force somebody to buy a company, but in many ways, achieving a going concern sale is a mark of success to an IP,’ says Money.

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