Abbott Vascular, which announced approximately 240 redundancies at its Clonmel operation last week, has confirmed it will make a “multi-million dollar investment” at the plant this year to enable new medical devices to be manufactured there but it does not expect at this stage to hire extra staff to work on these new products.
The company’s decision to axe approximately 200 permanent staff at the Cashel Road plant and to also lay off a further 39 employees when their contracts expire at the end of March has been greeted with huge disappointment and concern in the town and county.
The plant currently has 1400 workers and is Clonmel’s biggest employer. It was the only one of Abbott’s 11 facilities in Ireland to be hit with job cuts.
The job losses come just three months after 150 temporary staff at the plant were laid off at the end of November.
There was speculation last October when that first tranche of job losses were revealed that more redundancies were coming down the line. And while those fears have now proved to be correct, last Thursday’s announcement still came as a shock and concern was voiced by politicians and business leaders about the impact the loss of so many wage packets will have on local businesses and shops.
Political, local authority and business leaders, however, welcomed the fact that Abbott Vascular has stated that the Clonmel “facility remains strategically important to Abbott’s global vascular manufacturing network” and that it plans to invest in the Clonmel plant this year to enable it manufacture newer, advanced medical devices.
Mayor of Clonmel Cllr Billy Shoer said 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,” he said.
Mayor Shoer’s hope that the extra investment Abbott plans to make at the Clonmel plant will ultimately result in more jobs being created there in the future, was echoed by several other senior political figures in South Tipperary.
But when The Nationalist asked Abbott Vascular whether the extra investment in the plant would result in the creation of extra jobs, the company responded: “We are making a multi-million dollar investment in the site to bring new, advanced (medical device) products such as our bioresorbable vascular scaffold to the site. At this point, we do not anticipate that we will require additional staff.”
And when asked if any further redundancies were planned at its Clonmel plant, the company said. “Clonmel remains a strategically important manufacturing facility for Abbott. We regularly review and make adjustments to our workforce to meet the needs of the business. We do not speculate on future actions.”
Abbott said the redundancies were part of adjustments it was making to “meet the evolving needs of the business and to remain competitive in a challenging global environment.”
It explained the job cuts related only to Abbott’s vascular medical devices division and Clonmel was the only Irish site manufacturing these medical devices, used in treating vessel diseases of the heart and peripheral blood vessels.
It is understood the company is phasing out production of a number of older products at the plant and most of the jobs losses will be in manufacturing and manufacturing support.
The company said it was seeking to achieve the estimated 200 redundancies on a voluntary basis and began a 30-day consultation with its employees in relation to this last Friday. The plant’s work force is not represented by trade unions.
While the 39 contract workers will be let go at the end of March, the redundancy process for permanent staff is expected to be completed in April.
Abbott said it regretted the impact of “this adjustment” on our employees in Clonmel and stressed that its focus would be on supporting the workers who are losing their jobs.
The company said it did not publicly reveal the terms of its redundancy scheme but it has been reported that workers are to be offered six weeks pay per year of service on top of statutory redundancy up to a maximum of two and a half years pay. The company said it will also provide assistance with training and opportunities, CV preparation, interview skills and financial advice.
County Manager Billy McEvoy said he had contacted the company and offered South Tipperary Co. Council’s support and assistance where possible to help staff losing their jobs.
He said the Council will be working with the IDA, Enterprise Ireland, Limerick Institute of Technology, the VEC, FAS, the Department of Social Protection and South Tipperary Development Company to assist staff to secure training, education and new jobs.
“We did this before when Cordis closed down in Cashel and it seemed to work well. We will be in continual dialogue with Abbott.”
Clonmel Chamber chief executive Brian Cleary, meanwhile, said the Chamber plans to offer free training to Abbott staff facing redundancy.
In the Dail last week, Independent TD Seamus Healy called on Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton to set up a task forcing on securing new jobs for South Tipperary in view of the Abbott job cuts and other job losses in the county. He also asked the Mnister how many vacant advance factories and private factory facilities in South Tipperary were visited last year by industrialists.
Minister Bruton responded that IDA Ireland informed him there were five site visits by potential investors from overseas to South Tipperary last year.
Enterprise Ireland, which assists indigenous companies, dealt with 77 client companies in South Tipperary employing 2,151 people.
He added that the IDA was actively promoting the former J& Cordis plant in Cashel and the ongoing development of the 300 acre industry and technology partk at Ballingarrane.
In relation to the call for a jobs task force, the Minister said a South East Action Plan was put in place in 2011 following the Talk Talk job losses in Waterford. This involved all the agencies working together to promote the South East, including South Tipperary, and to find ways of increasing job creation in the region.
He said he was heartened by the progress being make on this plan and assured Deputy Healy he would continue to have a focus both on South Tipperary and on the wider South East region, which has been badly affected in recent years.
In relation to the Abbott job losses, Minister Bruton said it was a really tough day for the workers at Abbott in Clonmel but he was heartened that the company was “absolutely committed” to the Clonmel site and will be making investments that will improve the quality of production at the site and make it more competitive in the long term.