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Northern Ireland packaging firm's costs rise after Brexit

But company will not leave Dungannon, insists chief

By Margaret Canning

The chief executive of a packaging company in Dungannon has said his firm is in "contingency planning" after taking a financial hit from the Brexit vote.

Jarek Zasadzinski from Greiner Packaging, which is based in Austria but employs 250 people in Dungannon, joked that he would like to demand a cheque from leading Leave campaigner Boris Johnson for his company's increased costs.

But he insisted that the firm would keep its operations in the Co Tyrone town.

However, Mr Zasadzinski, who heads up Greiner Packaging Ltd's Northern Ireland operations, admitted currency fluctuations since the surprise result had caused its costs to rise.

He spoke as First Minister Arlene Foster unveiled a new manufacturing hall at the firm - part of a £2.5m investment.

It has replaced the original manufacturing hall, which was built in 1972, as well as fitting new machinery which can produce up to 1.5 million plastic pots a day.

Mrs Foster said: "This latest re-investment by Greiner Packaging is a good news story for manufacturing in Northern Ireland, and this latest expansion shows confidence in the quality and talent of our local workforce."

Mr Zasadzinski, who is from Warsaw, said operations were being affected by the Brexit vote.

"We are a net importer selling into mainland UK and we are really seeing this have an impact," he added. "I'd like to write to Boris Johnson to ask him for a cheque to cover increased costs."

The firm also hopes its latest investment will cut its energy costs by up to 25% and open up new markets in Britain.

Mr Zasadzinski said the improvements had been planned for around one year.

And while celebrating the new investment, he added that the Brexit vote was not good news. "Overall, it has a very negative impact for us," he warned. "We are exposed to the euro and the dollar because we import into the UK and our imports have become more expensive.

"We are in the process of preparing contingency plans as we speak. But we will not be leaving Dungannon."

But customers could see price rises, he admitted, adding: "It may have an impact on price increases for customers because we can't otherwise absorb increases in the exchange rate."

And more efficiencies could also be necessary. "There is a big reality check right now and we never thought this would go through," Mr Zasadzinski said.

"But we made a choice and we have to live with the consequences of it."

Mr Zasadzinski has lived and worked in Northern Ireland for 11 years with wife, Magdalena, who is also Polish, but he is now moving jobs to become vice-president of the overseas division of Greiner Packaging International in Austria.

He stressed the move was down to personal reasons and was not a reflection of how he felt about Northern Ireland.

"We both absolutely love Northern Irish and Irish people," he insisted. "I was in Nice when Northern Ireland played Poland and just loved the Northern Ireland fans. They are the best of the best football fans.

"People are and have been the best asset of the community while we've been here."

He also praised First Minister Arlene Foster for supporting the company - including in her years as Enterprise Minister - and he said that he hoped the shock effects of the referendum vote would ease.

"We are in a state of shock and maybe in one or two weeks we will have some stability," Mr Zasadzinski explained.

"We do need a Government to be back in power in some shape or form. Someone needs to start making decisions."

His role in Dungannon will be filled by Philip Woolsey, former general manager of Huhtamaki.

Belfast Telegraph