Six hundred workers are occupying the Waterford Crystal factory in Ireland after receivers tried to sack them and close the plant.The plant had already suffered cuts in jobs and shifts, when the plant went into receivership in early January. Then, in mid-January the receivers broke the news that the plant was closing—on a Friday after most workers had finished for the week.
Within hours workers had returned to the plant intending to occupy. “The security tried to stop us getting in—but they failed,” one worker told Socialist Worker, our sister publication in Ireland. “They closed the doors, but there were too many people. We stormed our way in—some 400 workers entered the plant.”
Workers keep the plant open
Workers are continuing to operate the plant’s furnace, which would suffer eight million Euros worth of damage if left idle for longer than one day. The receivers had made no contingency plans for keeping the furnace operating.
Joe, another worker in the occupation, told Socialist Worker, “We’re staying until we get the receiver’s decision to close the plant reversed. We want there to be an opportunity for someone to come in and buy this company and save jobs. And we want reasonable conditions for any that have to leave.”
Despite being in the middle of an icy winter, support rallies have attracted up to 8000 people in the town of Waterford. Food, blankets, gifts, money and messages of support are coming from around the UK.
As Ireland’s recession deepens the Waterford workers are showing millions of workers around the world how to fight to defend jobs and conditions. The workers are not only demanding that the receivers take care of them—they are also demanding that the Irish government take responsibility for securing their jobs and conditions.
Tom Hogan, a former Waterford glass worker and president of Waterford trades council said, “People are just saying, ‘Thank fuck somebody is doing something!’ They used to go home to their fires at night and contemplate which window in the dole office they were going to line up at. But the occupation has turned that mood around.”
By Ernest Price