Raise the Last Glass

The PBS series Wide Angle recently made an interesting film on the failure of Waterford Crystal:

6 replies on “Raise the Last Glass”

Thanks, Philip, for linking to this moving piece on people’s commitment to their work and workplace. It should be pointed out that Waterford Crystal was the strongest performer in the Wedgewood group and in three out of the last five years came in with an operating profit. There were options to maintain this worldwide brand of manufacturing in Waterford – namely, a public equity buy-out – either wholly public or public/private partnership. However, this was not considered. Instead, the loss of hundreds of jobs in a key skill-set and export sector will have considerable negative effects for years to come – for the national and local economy, the Exchequer; and, of course, the individuals who fought so hard. It is unfortunate that there hasn’t been a wider debate on the failure of government policy to intervene to maintain our wealth generating sectors through this recession.

At a time when the irish governments focus should be on creating jobs with genuine export potential, the closure of waterford crystal is a massive unnessisary blow to the people of waterford. The visitors centre and small scale glass production should have been kept at a minimum. The governments polling in the recent election in waterford city showed what the the people of Waterford thought of them.

It is sad when anyone loses their job, especially one that they have worked at for many years. But the government should not be deciding if, how much and where crystal should be manufactured. If Waterford Crystal was truly and significantly wealth generating, rather than on the edge, then there wouldn’t have been a need for intervention. Even if sometimes making an operating profit, does that take into account providing for the massive Defined Benefit pension liabilities that the company had amassed?

The piece tugs at the heartstrings, but in no way makes a case for an alternative course of action.

But John, its not just a glass manufacturer. Its also a huge Tourist attraction. It puts heads on beds in Waterford hotels, and bums on seats in the local restaurants. WC is of much greater systemic importance to waterford city than Anglo is to Ireland.
Im not saying the government should have paid their pension liabilities. But now that the workers have accepted the payoff efforts should be made to keep the tourist cantre going and very small sample manufacture for the good of the City. Im not from Waterford BTW

I’d have to agree with John Cowan.
Just because Waterford plc may have gone bankrupt, that doesn’t mean the brand and the factory are worthless. This new american group will purchase the brand and as the video showed, operate the visitor/tourist centre.
Suppose they move the manufacturing plant to Poland or some low cost country, the international consumers may or may not respond positively to the concept of Original Irish glass produced in Poland! This reminds me of the tourist gifts- Irish cottage – made in China.
Most tourists don’t seem to have a problem with it because they are bought and if there wasn’t a demand, then they wouldn’t be produced. If there was a demand for Irish made Irish cottages then they would be produced.
Overall I disagree with the view to nationalising Waterford. I can’t see any reason why the Irish state should be producing glass. In the same way I can’t see any reason why they should operate airplanes.
If they were to natioanlise Waterford, well there are many many manufacturing plants closing down every week. They should nationalise them too.

When Tony O’Reilly headed Heinz, he often spoke about the importance of creating world recognised Irish brands and then put a lot of money into Waterford, which had more than 3,000 employed in the 1970’s.

A combination of poor management; changing consumer tastes and cost structure, doomed the enterprise.

John Foley, chief of the Waterford Crystal unit, said in 2007 that the group employed 1,300 staff in Indonesia for the same wage costs as 90 staff in Britain, itself a cheaper labour market than Ireland.

Even after the industry had died in the 1850’s, the craftmanship of the renowned glassmakers of Bohemia, was brought to Waterford in 1947 by Charles Bacik, grandfather of Senator Ivana Bacik, and the old brand was revived.

It is not easy to create a significant brand in a market such as the US and it would be foolish for Ireland to leave the Waterford brand die.

Louis Vuitton bags may be made in China or all but the design of the iPod is Asian, but consumers view them as French and American products.

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