Town Council urged to look forward as town faces hard times in wake of Cordis shock

The closure of the Cordis company in Cashel, with the loss of 133 permanent jobs, would mean “ a famine of money” in the town, a special meeting of the local Town Council has been told.

The closure of the Cordis company in Cashel, with the loss of 133 permanent jobs, would mean “ a famine of money” in the town, a special meeting of the local Town Council has been told.

Cllr. Sean McCarthy, who made that claim, added “the business of Cashel is going to be devastated. We have many businesses hanging on by a thread and this could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back”.

The meeting was briefed on the efforts being made to try and find a replacement industry for the plant within the Johnson and Johnson company. It also heard that Richard Bruton, the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation had agreed to receive a deputation from the area to discuss the closure.

There were “hopeful hints” regarding the company’s plans for the Cashel plant, said Pat Holland, representing the County Council’s Community and Enterprise section. It would be important to meet the workers and management and bring the different agencies together.

The Mayor, Cllr. Maribel Wood, stressed the importance of looking forward in these difficult times. They had a state-of-the-art building on what was a marvellous industrial campus, which was a very important asset for the town and county. They also had a skilled workforce, who were very committed to the community. It was important that the building remained part of the industrial framework of the town.

She described the proposed closure of Cordis as a sad day for the town and her first thoughts were with the workers and their families.

Council Manager Sean Keating said that County Manager Billy McEvoy had arranged a meeting with officials of the County Development Board in an effort to identify how the various agencies could engage with those who would be made redundant after Christmas. It was also hoped that the agencies could assist the company in seeking an alternative role for that facility.

Mr. Keating hoped that the state agencies could help the skilled workforce, who were going through a very difficult and worrying time, if Johnson and Johnson couldn’t bring in an alternative industry.

It was intended in 2008 that the Cashel plant would produce new stents that would deliver drugs within the human body. But it would appear that Johnson and Johnson had lost ground to its main competitors and sales of Cordis stents had declined substantially, he said.

It was a devastating blow for the staff, their families and the town to lose a flagship employer that contributed enormously to the social fabric of the town as well as financially, said Cllr. Eoghan Lawrence.

Both Cllr. Quinlan and himself had been in touch with Richard Bruton’s office and the Minister had agreed to a request for a delegation from the Town Council and other agencies involved.

Cllr. Lawrence said that Johnson and Johnson were committed to Ireland and every effort had to be made to entice them back into Cashel into a facility in which €100 million had been invested.

“We have to be positive and focus our efforts on getting Johnson and Johnson back to the town”, he said.

The closure was a strategic decision, taken at company headquarters in California, as Cordis would no longer make this type of stent, said Cllr. Sean McCarthy. The company had been losing money in the stents business for a long time – in 2006 it had $2.6 billion worth of business but that had now been reduced to $627 million.

The company would explore all other avenues for the plant and look after the workers in so far as possible within the Johnson and Johnson family. They now had to convince the company that Cashel was the place to produce some other strategic cardio-vascular device, Cllr. McCarthy said.

The facility was in a prime location and well equipped to go forward, Cllr.P.J. Quinlan stated. It was among the best-built plants in Europe, if not in the world, and Johnson and Johnson had no intention of selling it.

The company seemed to be going all guns blazing to sort something out for the future. “The door is left open and nothing is closed yet. We need to keep our heads up and work very closely with all those involved”, said Cllr. Quinlan.

Cllr. Eddie Bennett said his sympathy went out to the workers but he was delighted that meetings had been arranged all the agencies involved, including the IDA and Enterprise Ireland.

Deputy Seamus Healy said that as well as the loss of 133 permanent jobs there would be probably another 200 jobs affected in downstream employment, and that would have a detrimental affect on the town and surrounding area.

He hoped it would be possible for the company to put another section of its business into the state-of-the-art factory.

Deputy Healy, who said he raised the closure in the Dail that morning, said the key was that they all worked together to find a replacement industry.

They had a major challenge to find an alternative but they weren’t letting the grass grow under their feet, said Cllr. Dan Dillon.

It was encouraging that people were so positive about finding a replacement industry, said Deputy Mattie McGrath.

The company was positive too because the plant was so modern and it had a prime location. He hoped they could entice Johnson and Johnson back to some other type of manufacturing facility. Business was on its knees and the town could ill afford to lose so many jobs.

Cllr. Joe Moloney said it would be important to contact the company management before they met the Minister. Cordis probably had the most skilled workforce in the country. A lot of the workers had left other jobs to join the company and better themselves, and some had big mortgages.

The closure would also mean a huge loss of revenue for the Council, said Cllr. Moloney.