Irish Glass Bottle workers occupation

Workers at the Irish Glass Bottle plant in Ringsend have been in occupation of the plant for the last couple of months (July 2002). The plant is closing, making some 375 workers redundant and the company is refusing to pay redundancy at the level recommended by the Labour Relations Commission of, five weeks pay for every years service. It wants to only pay 10% of this level, or half a week for every year.

This Saturday (20th July) the workers are marching through the city centre in support of their demands, starting at Liberty Hall at 12.00. We strongly encourage you to march with them.

Although the Ringsend plant has been making a loss recently its parent company, the Trasnational Corporation Ardagh Plc is in profit. According to its own Annual Report for 2001 its group trading profit was e37.5 million in 2000 and e26.2 million in 2001. The closure of the Irish plant was announced on the day that the parent company announced it was buying a plant in Italy.

Ardagh hold a major proportion of glass container manufacturing in Britain and Ireland. Their website claims "The combination of the Irish Glass facility in Dublin and the four Rockware plants in the UK places the group as market leader in the combined Irish / UK glass container market with a market share in excess of 40%.... Group turnover is in excess of 300m Euros"[1].

Many of the plants workers live in the area, and as the companies web site admits "Ringsend Dublin, an area synonymous with glass making over the centuries"[2]. According to SIPTU the plant "was once the main source of employment in Ringsend - when up to 1,200 workers were employed in the IGB at peak employment levels in the 1970s". The loss of the remaining 375 jobs, many of them skilled, will hit the area hard.

In fact when closure was threatened workers were willing to make huge concessions in terms of pay and conditions to try and keep the plant open (for details see links section). As the Ardagh Annual report admits, "A comprehensive restructuring agreement was successfully negotiated with the plants workforce that would have prevented any further erosion of the cost competitiveness of the plant." A month later the company announced they were closing the plant anyway, seeking to blame the customers for refusing to commit to buying sufficient quantities over the next three years.

The occupation of the plant (on the South Bank Road) is aimed at forcing the company to give better redundancy terms. This can work, because according to the Irish Times "the value of the Ringsend plant's plant and machinery [is] e7.6 million".[3]. Again according to the Irish Times "The 24-acre site on which the plant is located is leased from Dublin Port Company, with 64 years still to run on the lease. Mr Ken McDonald, of Hooke & McDonald, estimates the lease could be worth in the region of e20 million, depending on the restrictions it contains"[4].

The workers are members of SIPTU, Ireland largest union. Gerald Lynch, their branch secretary, said "the company's 370 employees were losing their jobs because Irish customers of Irish Glass had decided to source their bottles abroad, because they could get them cheaper there"[5.]

The closure of the plant has wider implications for all workers living in Ireland. The plant was a major site of glass recycling and according to Andrew Hetherington, chief executive of Repak (the industry-funded waste packaging compliance scheme) the closure of the plant was "a disaster for the recycling of glass in Ireland". which "will have dramatic ramifications for Ireland"[6]. SIPTU has pointed out that the "recycling plant ... processes 250 tonnes of glass a day .... The closure makes a mockery of the Government's initiatives on re-cycling and environmentally friendly initiatives". The Rehab group will have to find a new outlet for the 100 million bottles it recycles each year".[7]

The irony of the republics only glass recycling plant being closed even as the Dublin councils attempt to impose bin charges on the cities workers in the name of recycling won't be lost on those active in campaigning against these charges! Indeed the laid off workers are getting hit by capitalist globalisation twice, firstly through losing their jobs to plants elsewhere in Europe and secondly through having to pay the bin charges. And we will all be hit by the added pollution generated by the lorries, travelling on the EU subsidised roads, needed to haul the glass to and from whatever distant sites take over recycling and production.

The closure of the Irish Glass Bottle plant is yet another example of the madness of the market. So that an already profitable company can make a bigger profit hundreds of workers are to be thrown on the dole while the rest of us are to be subject to further pollution and traffic! If the workers of Dublin ran the city it is hard to see us deciding to follow such a crazy plan - but of course we don't.

Yet another reason to make sure you get along to the demonstration this Saturday! Hopefully we will see you there, at the Irish Glass Bottle March, Liberty Hall, Dublin, 12.00 noon Saturday 20th July.

Footnotes

1 http://www.ardaghplc.com/about.htm
2 http://www.irishglass.ie/about.htm
3 Irish Times, May 1st 2002 http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/finance/2002/0501/773485818BZARDA.html
4 Irish Times, May 2nd 2002,
5 Irish Times, May 2nd 2002,
6 Irish Times, May 2nd 2002,
7 Irish Times, May 1st 2002

First published July 18th 2002

WORDS Andrew Flood (Follow Andrew on Twitter )

Comments

Irish Glass Bottle

At the beginning of 2002 I was brought into IGB to update the Safety Statement, Risk Assessments etc. I was shocked at how crippled the company was by the restrictions imposed by the union. My recommendations to improve safety were met with ridiculous excuses based on the inability to offer the work to contractors even though in house tradesmsen were refusing to do the work. It was impossible to make even small changes. There was a huge "that's not my job" attitude, an "us and them" situation, to the point where nothing could get done. It was a terrible situation and I think the over-unionisation was the reason the place closed down. The union reps cut off their noses to spite their faces. They had no decent work ethic, no loyalty to their employer. Nobody pulled together to get the job done. They seemed selfish and greedy and I think it was very sad to see the place close down. It's no wonder these guys ended up with no jobs. I'm in favour of unions to look after workers, don't get me wrong, but when union reps get so stuck up their own arses that they completely sabotage their own workplace, that's when they are a danger to their fellow members.

  


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