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Union criticizes Gateway closure plans

With Gateway about to negotiate with a newly elected workers council regarding a possible factory closure in Ireland, a union is stepping in to try to help employees.

With Gateway about to negotiate with a newly elected workers council regarding a possible factory closure in Ireland, a union is stepping in to try to help employees.

Amid concerns that laid-off employees could receive meager compensation, unions have offered to assist workers who are facing job cuts related to Gateway's expected withdrawal from Britain and Ireland.

The Irish Services, Industrial, Professional and Technical Union (SIPTU) has announced that it is prepared to offer its advice and experience to the 900 Gateway employees who work at the company's factory in Dublin and other Irish sites. However, Gateway is planning to negotiate only with representatives from the work force, as is required under European Union law.

Under regulations, the only compensation due to each employee is a half week's pay per year of service for each employee under 41 years of age, or a full week's pay per year for those over 41. This is much less than SIPTU would like to see.

"If we were involved, we would be looking for a package of six weeks' pay per year of service," SIPTU spokeswoman Barbara Kelly said.

Kelly said many of the workers will not have many years of service at the factory, which opened seven years ago.

Gateway did not respond to requests for comment.

SIPTU Chairman Jack Nash is angered by the factory closure and the lack of union representation at Gateway.

"This is yet another example of workers in the high-tech industry being abandoned by a faceless employer. And although the management at Gateway had never been willing to accept a union to represent its employees, it doesn't mean the workers were not in need of proper representation," Nash said.

In addition to offering the assistance of its industrial relations staff, SIPTU will also give workers the chance to use the services of its crisis support center for laid-off workers, which it runs through the Irish Trade Union Trust.

The eight-member employee representative body at the Gateway plant was elected just last week, leading to concerns that it could lack the experience needed to negotiate with a multinational corporation.

"They'll be meeting to plan their own demise," a source close to the dispute said. The consultation period will take between 30 and 90 days.

U.S. PC maker Gateway announced Wednesday that it is considering closing its factory in Dublin, as well as its sales, service and marketing units throughout Britain and Ireland, leading to the loss of up to 1,000 jobs.

Staff writer Graeme Wearden reported from England.