Shock at Tullamore Dew job losses at Clonmel plant

Sian Moloughney

Reporter:

Sian Moloughney

Workers at the Tullamore Dew plant in Clonmel have been “devastated” by the shock announcement that the drinks bottling manufacturing facility is to close.

Workers at the Tullamore Dew plant in Clonmel have been “devastated” by the shock announcement that the drinks bottling manufacturing facility is to close.

Up to 50 jobs will be lost when parent company William Grant & Sons transfer the whiskey bottling operation to it’s newly developed distillery site in Tullamore, over the next 12 months, and ends a major bottling contract for other liqueurs.

The first phase of job losses will take affect by the end of September, when the Clonmel plant ends its agreement to bottle liqueurs for the Campari company. It is expected the facility will be fully closed by the autumn of 2016.

SIPTU’s Sector Organiser for the Food and Drink Sector, John Dunne, told The Nationalist that the 32 union members he represents at the plant had no indication the shock announcement was coming, last week. “This is a big blow to the area. The workers were absolutely shocked. We will be looking for the best package we can get.”

Mr Dunne said the union will be meeting with the company in the next fortnight and will be hoping some of the jobs can be transferred to the Offally facility.

The jobs blow was raised in the Dáil yesterday (Tuesday) with Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton, by Deputy Seamus Healy.

Deputy Healy highlighted to The Nationalist that Tipperary now has an unemployment rate of 18.5% - almost double the national average of 9.8%, representing a worsening of the unemployment crisis in Clonmel and the county generally.

“This follows the loss of 200 jobs at Intellicom Clonmel, the loss of 12 jobs at Gleesons (C&C) Borrisoleigh and a further 20 jobs in C&C administration and sales. There have also been redundancies at Boston Scientific while the state of the art Johnson and Johnson plant at Cashel remains idle.

“Unemployment increased by almost a hundred in Clonmel in April and by 383 in County Tipperary at a time when the figures nationally were decreasing. Not a cent of the €150 million to be spent by the government in IDA advance factories and offices in Ireland over the next five years is to be spent in County Tipperary.”

He is calling on the government TDs in the county to take action. “It is now time for Minister Tom Hayes and Minister Alan Kelly to intervene with Minister Bruton to ensure that Tipperary gets its fair share of job creation.”

The Clonmel-based TD plans to meet with the management of William Grant & Sons on Friday.

Deputy Mattie McGrath also expressed his shock and disappointment at the news that the jobs are to be lost. Speaking after he had attended the C&C Group AGM in an effort to highlight the separate issue of threats to workers’ jobs and conditions at their plants in Borrisoleigh and Clonmel: “The news coming out of Tullamore Dew in Clonmel is genuinely shocking. I had understood, as did the workers at Tullamore Dew, that there was a long term commitment to the Clonmel plant being an essential part of (Grant’s) growth strategy.

“I hope that every effort of the State will be made as part of the work needed to save whatever jobs are lost. I will certainly do all I can to have the matter raised at Government level in an effort to give assurances to the many families involved.”

Announcing the job losses William Grant & Sons explained that the company has been contract manufacturing ‘Carolan’s’ and ‘Irish Mist’ on behalf of Campari in Clonmel since the sale of these two brands to Campari in 2010. This manufacturing agreement will end, in accordance with its terms, on September 30. This means that William Grant & Sons Irish Manufacturing will not be manufacturing Carolan’s and Irish Mist at Clonmel after this date.

“We have conducted a detailed review of the impact of the loss of this contract on our people, volume, capacity and future forecast at Clonmel, and have been carefully assessing a range of options. After careful consideration, it is our proposal to transfer bottling from Clonmel to a new facility at our Tullamore Distillery Site.

“Unfortunately, this proposal means that the Clonmel site would close by Q3/Q4 2016, resulting in the potential redundancies of our employees based at Clonmel. It is proposed that the closure would take place over two phases. Phase one (which we anticipate would be in effect by 30 September 2015) would down size the Clonmel operation to produce Tullamore Dew only. Phase two (anticipated to be in effect by Q3/Q4 2016) would transfer all bottling to the new bottling hall based on the Tullamore Distillery site.”

The company went on to say it has now entered into a period of consultation with Clonmel based employees. “At this stage it is only a proposal and no decision about individual employees will be taken until after the consultation process has been concluded.”