Staff at a Co Tyrone cheese plant are calling on shareholders of Fivemiletown Creamery to ensure “dignified redundancy packages” are presented to workers following the sale of the company.
Shareholders at Fivemiletown Creamery last night voted with an overwhelming majority in favour of selling the well-known brands to Glanbia Ingredients Ireland (GIIL). The deal hinged upon Glanbia also securing the company’s “milk pool” which is worth around 25 million litres per year.
It is believed 83 per cent of shareholders, all of whom are milk producers, voted in favour of the deal.
The agreement, which is subject to the signing of legal documents, involves suppliers of Fivemiletown Creamery entering into a long-term milk supply agreement with GIIL.
It was revealed last week that Glanbia were only interested in the company’s “milk pool” which would be a significant addition to the company’s portfolio.
Almost 50 staff at the creamery are set to be made redundant later this month and workers are hoping that management will take into consideration their fierce loyalty to the company over the years.
Long-standing master cheesemaker Ian McIntosh said he hoped that shareholders would give the “same loyalty, dignity and respect” to the employees as they have shown the company.
He added that staff were “devastated” when they heard the creamery would almost certainly be lost earlier this week.
“We have now entered into a 30-day consultation process with the company in order to negotiate redundancy packages for staff.
“We will be meeting on Monday to elect staff members to represent us during those negotiations.
“At the minute there is a total mix of emotions from anger at past decisions that led us to this position to disappointment and deep sorrow at the position we find ourselves now in.
“Despite knowing that we will lose our jobs we will work with the utmost professionalism and show the company the same amount of dignity as we have in the past. We will work hard to fill the orders we have outstanding.
“We hope the shareholders will recognise the long-standing loyalty the employees have had to the company and remember the dignity with which we conducted ourselves even when we were protesting outside the meeting to discuss the sale to Glanbia.”
The deal with Glanbia means production at the creamery will cease and the company will acquire the Fivemiletown cheese brands except for Boilie goat’s cheese.
Fivemiletown Creamery entered negotiations with a number of companies last year, it is believed the plant were losing around £1 million per year following the loss of a cheese supply contract to Kerry Foods in 2012 accounting for 60 per cent of their business.
Mr McIntosh says the future is bleak for many of the factory’s workers with jobs in the Tyrone and Fermanagh areas scarce.
He added: “The dairy industry here has been decimated. 50 jobs going in this area is the equivalent of around 1000 or 2000 in Belfast.
“There are guys here willing to sweep the streets to pay their mortgage and support their families but there just aren’t jobs for them to apply to.
“We are calling on the unions, who haven’t been that pro-active, and politicians to now look at what they can do to help the staff members rebuild a life for themselves.”