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Thursday, 12 April, 2001, 11:33 GMT 12:33 UK
Guinness brewers strike
Glasses filled with Guinness
Guinness could run out soon if strike continues
Ireland could soon run short of Guinness, the dark brew that is the national beverage, if a strike is not resolved quickly.

More than 1,000 Guinness brewery workers went on strike on Thursday determined to reverse a company decision to close the firm's packaging plant in Dundalk, north of Dublin.

Publicans, worried they could run out of beer, have stocked up on extra kegs of Guinness and its popular lager brand, Harp, in anticipation of a weeklong strike.

The company has declined to confirm reports in the Irish press that it plans to import Guinness into Ireland from neighbouring Britain, where the firm also has facilities unaffected by the strike.

Tadg O'Sullivan, chief executive of the Vintners' Federation of Ireland, representing about 6,000 pubs around the country, said he expected the strike would mean shortages very quickly.

Pulling the pints

Guinness, owned by Britain's Diageo, the world's biggest drinks group, announced last summer it planned to close its Dundalk plant, with the loss of around 150 jobs.

Strikers outside Guinness plant
Strikers halt production of Guinness
The company blamed over-production in its packaging operation and that the Dundalk plant was more costly to run than its other packaging bases in Belfast and Runcorn, northwest England.

The unions blame the parent company which they say do not have Irish interests at heart.

"Guinness is no longer run from Ireland," said John Kane of Ireland's biggest union SIPTU.

"People used to have a comfort factor in dealing with local management who dealt with them in a civilised way, but now the whole ethos is changing."

The SIPTU said it "believed the closure is just the tip of the iceberg in relation to the company's plans for all operations in Ireland".

The plant was scheduled to close on 27 April but the company has offered to delay.

Business interests

Guinness says it stands to lose weekly sales before duty worth 10m Irish punts ($11.3m, 7.8m) in the republic and 5m punts ($5.6m, 3.9m) in exports.

The strike has closed production at Guinness breweries in Dublin, Dundalk, Waterford and Kilkenny but there were hopes the strike might be called of after talks on Thursday.

"A lot of work went into the talks, but unfortunately the unions wanted us to take the crucial issue of the Dundalk packaging unit off the table which we can't do," Guinness Ireland's communications director Pat Barry.

Mr Barry said the company had "no further plans at this stage" for more changes in its Irish operations, but added that "our business is changing on a global basis".

"There is some agreement but a fundamental issue remains," said John Kane of Ireland's largest union SIPTU.

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