By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — The troubled Chicago-based Fruit of the Loom leisure wear company has announced that most of its 1,900 workers in Donegal and Derry will go on a three-day week beginning Sept. 20.
A statement given to employees said that the "reintroduction of short-time working" was due to "production requirements being significantly reduced because of forecasted sales and current inventory stocks."
It said the company anticipated "a return to full-time working by this year’s end."
The majority of its 1,900 workers will be affected — 1,400 in the company’s Donegal plants and 500 in Derry — and trade union officials have described the news as "deeply worrying."
Last December, under the terms of a deal hammered out with the IDA, the company announced that 770 workers would be made redundant and three Donegal factories would be closed and the T-shirt sewing operation would be transferred to Morocco.
Follow us on social media
Keep up to date with the latest news with The Irish Echo
The deal involved the factory buildings at Malin, Milford and Raphoe being handed over to the IDA for replacement industries. The IDA said at the time that the emphasis of the search for new jobs would be on call centers and health product companies.
Guarantees were given by the company that in Donegal a further 700 jobs would stay until the end of this year and the remaining 600 jobs would remain until the end of 2005.
There were no plans to reduce job levels in the company’s operations in Northern Ireland.
The deal came two months after a row between Tanaiste Mary Harney and former company chairman and chief executive officer Bill Farley about repayment of IDA grants.
It was announced in December just days before the bulk of the workforce began a one-month shutdown because of overstocking.
The job guarantees reduced the company’s repayments to the IDA from initial estimates of £11-£12 million to £7 million. The IDA was to offset £2 million for the return of the three plants.
Kieran McGowan, then chief executive of the IDA, said they had been facing an impossible task when faced with plants in low-income economies.
"It’s just impossible for us to compete with a place like Morocco where the workers do a six-day, 45-hour week for £30 a week."