Waterford Wedgwood union welcomes KPS bid

KPS Capital, the US private equity firm that is in negotiations with administrators Deloitte to acquire crystal and ceramics maker Waterford Wedgwood, has secured the support of trade unions.

Unite, the trade union representing laid-off workers at Waterford Wedgwood’s Irish plant, believes that an offer from US private equity group KPS Partners for the indebted crystal maker presents hope for jobs.

“The deal which is on the table at present secures jobs, money for those without jobs, and the strong prospect of a long-term manufacturing future for Waterford Crystal in Waterford,” Jimmy Kelly, regional secretary for Unite, said on February 12, after more than 200 workers at the plant in County Waterford, Ireland staged a two week sit-in.

Kelly said that KPS had presented an agreement in principle, supported by government funding, to maintain a manufacturing facility in Waterford as well as €10m ($12.8m) to cover payments to workers who have been made redundant.

In addition to KPS Partners, Deloitte is also in talks with a second US-based private equity group, Clarion Capital, about buying Waterford Wedgwood’s crystal plant in Ireland.

Kelly said Clarion had not offered an amount for financial assistance for workers who had lost their jobs, adding: “We will continue to work with those who can best deliver for the Waterford workers and their families. The sit-in protest at the Waterford Crystal visitors’ centre will continue until such time as a deal is concluded.”

Waterford Wedgwood, which had net debts of nearly €450m (US$575m) in October 2008 and warned in December that it would not be able to pay interest to bondholders, called in Deloitte in January.