A high level campaign is underway to persuade Johnson & Johnson to start manufacturing another of its medical products at Cashel’s Cordis plant in a bid to save some of the more than 200 jobs that will be axed if the factory’s closure goes ahead as planned before Christmas.
Co. Council, Cashel Town Council and job creation agencies like the IDA and County Enterprise Board are working this week to meet with senior Johnson & Johnson management to discuss with them their plans for the factory and to put the case for continuing manfacturing at the plant, which the US multi-national is reported to have invested E100m in setting up.
And efforts are also underway to arrange a meeting between a deputation of local political, local authority and enterprise figures and the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation Richard Bruton to press him to bring as much political pressure to bear as possible to save the factory and if that is not possible secure a replacement industry.
Cordis Corporation’s announcement last Wednesday, June 15th of the decision to close the plant, which manufactures drug eluting stents for patients suffering from coronary artery disease, with the loss of 133 permanent jobs and between 80 and 100 temporary contract jobs, shocked and stunned the people of Cashel and the county. Staff were informed of the news at a lunch time meeting.
The plant was officially opened in December 2008 next to another Johnson & Johnson operation, Alza. Initially 100 jobs were created with the aim of building up to a workforce of 450 by 2012.
Johnson & Johnson management in the US has decided to stop manufacturing these stents due to a drop in profits in this area. In a statement, it said it would “no longer pursue the development of the Nevo Sirolimus-Eluting coronary stents in order to “focus on other cardiovascular therapies where significant patient need exists”.
The closure of Cashel’s largest employer will have a huge impact on the local economy, not just in the loss of jobs but in the knock-on reduction of consumer spending in shops and services in Cashel and it hinterland.
While many permanent workers at the plant commuted from places like Cork to work at Cordis, most of the contract workforce were locally based.
Johnson & Johnson has given a commitment to redeploying as many of its permanent staff as possible to its 10 other operations around the country. However, it’s understood redeployment won’t be open to temporary contract staff.
The company said consultations regarding the job losses wil begin with employees immediately..
According to Fine Gael TD Tom Hayes, the company is opening an office in Cashel town centre this week where staff eligible for redeployment can go to obtain information about jobs in other Johnson & Johnson facilities.
Deputy Hayes said he was working at the moment to arrange for a deputation of political, local authority and job creation agency representatives to meet with Minister Bruton to discuss the Cordis closure and what can be done at government level to save the plant.
Meanwhile, South Tipperary Co. Council Manager Billy McEvoy said a meeting between senior council officials, the County Development Board and all the State job creation agencies is taking place today (Wednesday) to discuss the crisis .
He said they were working to arrange a meeting as soon as possible with senior Johnson & Johnson management.
Mr McEvoy described the multi-national’s decision as “disappointing” and “shocking” as it came totally out of the blue.
He said Cordis was located in a “state-of-the-art” plant and in a very good and highly accessible location just off the M8 motorway, within commuting distance of Cork and Limerick and on the natural gas supply.
They would be certainly looking for Johnson & Johnson to use it for the manufacture of another product or if that was not possible get a replacement industry.
The local authorities and job creation agencies will also discuss how they can support and help the Cordis workers.
“I would be positive about the future of the factory. Even though this is devastating news, we have to look forward,” Mr McEvoy said.
The IDA, meanwhile, would not confirm how much IDA grant aid was invested in the Cordis plant. When asked whether Johnson & Johnson will have to pay back some of the grant money, IDA spokesman Thomas McEvoy said it was a matter both parties were aware of and were in discussion on.
Bryan Mohally, a vice president in Johnson & Johnson, said the company would explore alternatives for the Cashel site.