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Fruit of Loom fate remains unclear

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Andrew Bushe

DUBLIN — The future of hundreds of jobs in the U.S.-owned Fruit of the Loom clothing plants in Donegal remains unclear after a row between company bosses and Irish officials about repayment of over £10 million in IDA training grants.

About 700 jobs are expected to be axed and a joint announcement had been due early this week after a meeting between chief executive Bill Farley and Tanaiste Mary Harney.

A preliminary meeting between Farley and senior executives with Harney and IDA boss Kieran McGowan led to a forthright exchange and the announcement was postponed.

Both sides are now understood to be taking legal advice about their position.

Last month the company announced it was closing its Dungloe plant with the loss of 48 jobs and it is believed the company wants to transfer at least a further 700 T-shirt sewing jobs to low-cost, low-wage countries.

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The tanaiste has said the company’s "substantial liabilities would be pursued."

The breakdown in negotiations came after three hours of talks in a Dublin hotel.

The situation was criticized by Fine Gael’s Nora Owen, who said the government had not acted quickly enough to prevent the crisis.

"People’s jobs are on the line. They don’t know whether they are going to be out of work by Christmas. Some have been put on short-time. We need this matter solved quickly and this unseemly row between the minister and Mr. Farley will have to be solved," she said.

Farley flew back to America but a statement issued on his behalf said: "No final decision has been taken with regard to redundancies at any of our Irish plants. The company is examining ways to minimize any potential job losses at our Irish operation."

The company has plants in Buncrana, Raphoe, Milford and Malin Head in Donegal and at Campsie and Templemore in Derry. Unemployment in the areas of Donegal here the plants are located is running at about twice the national average.

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