Sweet era ends for Kilcock as Zed shuts
By HENRY BAURESS
AN end of an era came about last Friday when most of the remaining staff at the Kilcock Zed Candy factory left their jobs with a redundancy package.
The sweet odour from the plant which has produced Mr. Freeze, FizzBombs and other sweeties will be experienced no more in the north Kildare town.
While they knew of their fate for some time now, the final day was an emotionally charged one for the 53 staff who left on Friday.
“It is absolutely unbeliveable for us all,” said veteran employee, Marie Murphy.
Apart from a few staff who will remain on to tidy up, the rest will now have to look elsewhere for an alternative income.
Marie who is in her late fifties started work in what as then called Leaf Ltd, later Leaf Ireland, in 1968.
Apart from what she described as a break to raise children between 1974 and 1980, Marie has worked at the plant for what has been a life time of work. “It was my first job,” she said.
Many staff leaving last week have had long records, working for years in a plant which at one time employed 350 people.
The produce will now be made in China. “Our jobs have just gone to cheap labour. The Government will have to do something,” said Marie.
“The hard thing was that staff and the plant have never been busier. It was not as if we had nothing to do,” she said.
Two years earlier, the annual accounts for Zed's parent company, Appolanio Ltd, which had a subsidiary in the UK, Tilley’s Sweets, showed it was employing 108 people, including those at Zed Candy. Turnover was for the company and its subsidaries was n16.9 million.
Profit was n728,851 after it paid out over half a million in a bank interest loan, 18% ahead of the previous year, when it employed 91 people.
Before pension and social welfare costs it paid an average wage of n33,323 in 2005.
The directors said they were satisfied with the performance of the group.
Just over a year later, in March 2007, Zed Candy, said publicly that the Kilcock plant was struggling to main profitability and that it would move to Dong Guan near Hong Kong in the middle of this year.
Some staff took the opportunity to find other work.
While they got a few months longer in work than they expected, for staff like Marie, the timing of the departure is not great. If they were four to five yeas older, they would be nearer to pension age.
Meanwhile, Zed Candy has applied for planning permission for a major commercial and residential development on the site and an appeal is being considered by An Bord Pleanla. No date has been fixed for that yet.
Marie, who will be occupied later this week with the Kilcock Musical and Dramatic Society’s staging of Sean O’Casey’s The Plough and the Stars, said she will look around for different type of work, possibly part time.
She believes Kilcock needs to be revitalised. “There are too many derelict sites around and there is no proper shopping centre which can be difficult for older people in particular,” she said.
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