Saturday, July 3, 2010

Largo Foods try to use Recession to drive down Wages

Largo Foods employs around 180 full time and part time staff at its operation in Gaoth Dobhair Industrial estate in West Donegal. They are also the parent company of Arán Pita Éireann Teo, Bia Ghaoth Barra, Teo Gaoth Dobhair as well as Bia Ghaoth Dobhair Teo.  Amongst the brands they produce are Tayto and Hunky Dory Crisps. These and other snack foods they supply to national and international retailers, including Tesco, Safeway, Lidl and Sainsbury's.

The owner and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the company is Ashbourne based Ray Coyle. The company's plant in Ashbourne currently employs more than 550 people. In recent weeks the workforce has been increased by 36. Another 35 jobs are to be created in September (rising to 80 during the summer high season next year) as Coyle opens his €8 million Tayto Park, a fun park and visitor centre.
 Ray Coyle

In recent months Coyle has not been shy in telling the media how successful his business has become. In recent weeks he told the Irish Times that 'business is better than last year' and boasted how his recent controversial ad campaign for Hunky Dory's had significantly increased his sales.

The firm has also recently secured a listing in 1200 stores in Shangai. As a result Largo Foods will now be exporting two containers of crisps on a weekly basis over to China, the world's largest consumer market.

Again, in recent weeks, the company received massive funding from the tax-payer through Údarás na Gaeltachta. They received €600,000 from Údarás, a figure that is likely to increase to €950,000, for the company to expand their operation in Gaoth Dobhair, develop a new snack product and supposedly create 40 jobs in the process

All in all, this is a company that is on the up, that has significantly increased its sales base and business in general, that is expanding rapidly and is quite clearly not in any economic difficulties.

Therefore when workers at the Gaobh Dobhair plant were told that they would have to take a 3.5% pay cut, they were both puzzled and angry. The workers were balloted on the proposal in the middle of last week. Despite attempts by some members of the management to bully and intimidate workers by telling them they would shut the plant if they rejected the cuts, the workers democratically rejected the unjustified proposal.

In the wake of that vote, management have stepped up their intimidation, continuing with their threat to shut down their entire operation in Donegal, a situation that has caused real concern for the workers and their families as well as the wider community who will also suffer if the plant closes down.

Following approaches by both workers at the plant and members of the public concerned at the future of the plant and the despicable behaviour of the company towards its workers, éirígí Tír Chonaill spokesperson Micheál Cholm MacGiolla Easbuig called on the CEO of Largo Foods Ray Coyle, to publicly clarify his immediate plans for the company's operations in Gaoth Dobhair. 

According to MacGiolla Easbuig, the behaviour of Coyle and the company towards their employees and the taxpayer who has invested heavily in this company, has been despicable. He said:

“Despite blatant and unacceptable bullying and intimidation from management, the workers democratically, and justifiably, rejected Coyles attempts to impose pay cuts on them.”

“This is just another example of employers trying to use the recession to drive down workers wages and conditions despite there being no justification for doing so. According to the CEO himself, the company is on the up, they have secured a massive new market in China and have only recently received huge investment from the tax payer."

He continued:  "This only serves to rubbish any suggestion that this pay cut was needed because of any economic concerns. Quite clearly this is a company that is not in economic difficulties and their attempts to impose pay cuts are solely about greed and increased profits at workers expense, using the recession as an excuse.” 
MacGiolla Easbuig concluded: “It is completely unacceptable that a company that has benefited to such an extent from state funding should now treat its workforce and the local community in such a shabby manner. We are calling on Ray Coyle to publicly clarify the position of Largo Foods in Donegal. We would also urge the workers to organise themselves to resist any further intimidation by the company and for the local community to also rally behind the workforce in order to support the workers and their families.”

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