Devastating Abbott job losses a huge blow to Clonmel and county

Aileen Hahesy

Aileen Hahesy

The close to 240 job losses at Clonmel’s Abbott Vascular plant have been described by local politicians and business leaders as a significant economic blow that will have a knock on impact on small businesses and shops throughout the town and county.

But many also expressed relief that the multi-national has stated it remains committed to its Clonmel operation and expressed the hope the company’s plans to further invest in the facility will result in new jobs being created in the future.

Mayor of Clonmel Billy Shoer described the planned job losses at Abbott Vascular as a “huge blow” and “huge shock” and something the town didn’t need in these difficult economic times.

Cllr Shoer said that from talks with Abbott staff members before Christmas there were fears that lay-offs were possible but the news was still a shock when it arrived.

However, he was hopeful the job losses may be just temporary and the workers may be re-employed at some stage.

“I know there’s a lot of rationalisation taking place and if this move helps to safeguard other jobs in Abbott, then that is some consolation.”

Mayor Shoer said he would be in touch with the County Manager to offer any support to the company that it may need.

Clonmel Chamber chief executive Brian Cleary said the loss of more than 200 pay packets would have a significant impact on Clonmel at a difficult time.

But he announced that the Chamber plans to offer free training to Abbott staff members affected by redundancy.

“This is a terribly unsettling time for many people and we at the Chamber will be doing our best to ensure those affected by job losses at the Cashel Road plant are offered as many opportunities as possible through our Skillsnet service,” he said.

He said the job cuts were a shock, though Clonmel has weathered the economic storm better than most towns.

“While that will be cold comfort to those affected by this, I think that we must look to identify new opportunities for those affected as soon as possible. This town has a remarkable reputation throughout Ireland as a leader in medical devices and pharma and we must make sure that those skills are maintained here” he added.

Speaking in the Dail last week, Independent TD Seamus Healy said the job losses were “devastating” and called on Minister for Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation Richard Bruton to intervene personally to ensure the staff affected get a good financial package as well as the required training and up-skilling to enable them to take up future employment. He also called on the Government to intervene with the company to ensure it replaced the jobs that are being lost with new initiatives and developments at the site.

Deputy Healy also appealed to Minister Bruton to establish a task force to prioritise employment for South Tipperary in view of these job losses, the closure of Kickham Barracks and St Michael’s Psychiatric Unit in Clonmel and company closures in the area.

“As the Minister will be aware, the area has been hit by significant levels of unemployment during the years, with the number unemployed rising from 3,524 in 2008 to 9,173 today, almost a trebling of the figures,” he pointed out.

Clonmel based Labour MEP for Munster Phil Prendergast said the redundancies announcement was very distressing news for the workforce, their families, and the wider community but the company had fortunately signalled that the Clonmel plant remains a strategic asset for their manufacturing operations.

“I hope that during the month-long consultation phase, Abbott will engage constructively with the Clonmel-based workers to find the best possible outcome for its employees.

“The company must give all workers in that situation the full picture in terms of its intentions and their entitlements as soon as possible

“The company has stated that its Clonmel facilities will focus on more advanced medical devices, and I hope that as many of the current workforce as possible will be part of that new phase in the life of Abbott’s Clonmel site.”

Fine Gael TD Tom Hayes said his thoughts were with Abbott staff at this time. The job losses were extremely regrettable, and came as a big shock to the workers and wider community.

“Unfortunately, Clonmel appears to have taken the brunt of Abbott’s restructuring plan as it is the only one of the 11 Abbott locations in Ireland to be impacted by this decision.”

However, he was glad the company has stated it remained committed to its Clonmel operation and welcomed the fact Abbott was supporting those being made redundant through favourable redundancy terms and the provision of services to help them access training and find new jobs.

Independent TD Mattie McGrath also expressed huge disappointment at the job cuts and while he was pleased the company remained committed to Clonmel and the redundancy package was quite favourable, this was not much solace for the workers losing their jobs.

“This is a very worrying time and these job losses will unfortunately have a direct impact on the many small businesses and shops in Clonmel who are already struggling at this difficult time. The Government needs to do much more on jobs, improving competitiveness and decreasing the cost of doing business,” Deputy McGrath said.

“I hope that as part of the readjustments within Abbott that some of these layoffs will only be temporary and some of the staff may hopefully find employment with the company again in the near future,” he added.

Fianna Fáil Cllr Siobhán Ambrose said the announcement was a shock to everyone but welcomed the company’s decision to give an extended period for discussions with employees and hoped those being made redundant will receive a generous redundancy package.