AN ESTIMATED 1,000 people attended a public meeting in Ballyconnell on Monday night, convened by employees of Quinn Glass – its sale is now imminent – and local businesses concerned that the preferred bidder, a Spanish firm will repatriate the Derrylin plant with the loss of 441 jobs, has thrown its weight behind a local bidder, Quinn Glass Retention Company (QGRC).
The current value of Quinn Glass, which occupies two sites, at Derrylin and Manchester, is thought to b around €400m.
The spokesman for the local bidder, Martin Maguire said he and his team had been asked to articulate the workers’ concerns about potential closure.
“They are genuinely worried that if they speak up, they will be sacked, given the culture of fear which now exists in the Fermanagh-based part of the business.”
For its part, Aventas, the group of investors that took over the running of the Quinn Group four years ago, in a statement issued the previous day, denied there was any funded local bid.
“In October, 2014, we received an expression of interest by letter from a London-based financial adviser. He was subject to the same process as all the other bidders, but no formal funded offer was ever submitted.
“We have received five formal fully-funded bids and are currently in advanced discussions with the preferred bidder (Spanish company Vidrala).
“As part of the sale process, we sought assurances from bidders as to their intentions. The preferred bidder has the necessary substantial capital that is required to rebuild the furnaces in both Derrylin and Elton.
“Furthermore, they have said in the strongrest possible terms that it is of the utmost importance for them to keep employment in both places.”
However, Mr Maguire begged to differ. He told his audience that, based on what had occurred over the past three-plus years, the local community had no confidence in any promises made by the current management.
He stated: “Promises made in the past have been broken with alarming regularity. The manufacturing business, which was not to be broken up, has already been divided and now belongs to four different owners.
“Aventas is now promising that such events will not recur this time, but once the business is sold, Aventas will have no control over what might ensue.”
He went on: “Local concerns focus on the fact that, with the glass plant in England having 50% more capacity than the local plant, future control of this business will be centred between England and Spain, with current customers and assets being lost to this area and resultant major job losses in the Fermanagh plant.
“For these reasons, the local community feels that the current proposal must be resisted and that the community must challenge it, if jobs are to be retained in this area for future generations. That would necessitate local ownership and control.”
Mr Maguire acknowledged that Quinn Industrial Holding, a local group of investors including former directors Liam McCaffrey and Kevin Lunney, had recently acquired the CIS former Quinn manufacturing and packaging divisions of the Quinn Group.
However, he said there were fears that Quinn Glass would now be sold to an overseas company which would place no value on local people, local jobs, the local community or the local area.
Both Mr Maguire and Fr Gerry Comiskey, the parish priest of Staghall and a former curate in Teemore and Kinawley, were restrained in their comments, Fr Comiskey focusing on the theme of ‘community’.
But, speakers from the floor were not so reticent.
Padraig Donohoe, a local businessman, recalled boulders being put in place, ‘on a Sunday morning when people were at Mass’, around the headquarters of the Quinn Group by its new owners.
“It’s time to get rid of the boulders, the bollards, and hand us back our glass plant”, he said to raucous applause.