Global Economy Claims New Victims
U.S. Firm Moves Jobs
From Ireland to Morocco
The global economy claimed 770 more victims
in December, as workers at four Fruit of the Loom factories in Ireland learned two weeks
before Christmas the plants would close in January.
The Irish workers earned approximately $300 a week on average. Their jobs
will be going to Morocco, where workers will be paid substantially less.
The Fruit of Loom jobs, sewing t-shirts, were a lifeline in economically
disadvantaged rural County Donegal. The four plants have employed entire families; many
young people left school early to take advantage of the jobs.
The American company set up shop in Donegal 12 years ago. Ireland has been
successful in selling itself as good location for industry, offering attractive packages
of tax incentives and grants. (Many jobs long performed by UE Local 295 members in
Bennington, Vt. are going to a Bijur Lubricating plant in Ireland.)
By closing down the four plants, Fruit of the Loom faced an obligation to
repay the government £10 million. Last September, the company offered to trade the £10
million for a promise to retain other jobs not immediately threatened with plant closings.
The Irish government refused.
However, under a deal approved in December, Fruit of the Loom will pay
back £5 million, continue 700 sewing jobs until the end of this year and safeguard 600
fabric production jobs until the year 2006. The deal also requires the American company to
hand over to the Irish government three of the factories closing early this year.
Workers in the U.S. continue to be victimized by plant closings as states,
regions and now nations compete for jobs by offering big business the biggest breaks,
lowest wages and weakest regulations. While states and local communities in the U.S. are
limited in their response to plant closings, laws in other countries sometimes give
government a stronger hand in bargaining. Although ultimately unable to prevent the loss
of the 770 Fruit of the Loom jobs, the Irish government succeeded in bringing the
multinational corporation to terms.