The number of people on the live register in Tipperary Town is edging closer to 2,000 with another ninety four workers set to lose their jobs when Pall Ireland closes its manufacturing facility in the town at the end of May.
The closure of the company announced during a general election campaign with 1,800 already on the LIve Register in the town highlights the chronic unemployment situation. The loss of Pall will deprive the local economy of an annual half a million euro in wages and comes less than two years after over one hundred people living in the town their jobs in Dell in Limerick.
There was an air of shock and despair hanging over Tipperary last Thursday as stunned workers emerged from the plant on the Rosanna Road after being told that the company was closing its operations in the town from May 31. The company announcement sent shockwaves around the town and throughout West Tipperary.
The closure of the town's only remaining multi national company will have a devastating effect on an ailing economy which has seen two pubs and four shops close since Christmas.
At an emergency meeting of Tipperary Town Council, called by the Mayor Cllr. Billy Bourke, a decision was taken to arrange a meeting of various agencies through the County Development Board to create a support structure for the workers. Pall will also be asked to consider giving the building to the town to assist the search for a replacement industry.
Pall was the replacement industry found after Tambrands closed down in 1996 with the loss of 150 jobs. Pall arrived on the same site, establishing a medical filter operation and a year later opened a hydraulic filter operation. In 2003 the company closed down the medical filter side of the business with the loss of 150 jobs and transferred the business to Puerto Rico. The hydraulic filter side of the business suffered fifteen redundancies in 2009 and now Pall Ireland have decided to close down the entire operation.
The closure came as a massive shock to the workforce and the town. On Wednesday afternoon of last week the workforce were told they had to attend a meeting at 10am the next day.
After the workforce had assembled, plant manager David O'Driscoll announced that the plant was to close on May 31. He was asked by the workers where the jobs were going and they did not receive an answer.
"The meeting was very hard on everybody, even the manager found it hard to speak. They were a good company, very fair to work for and they are a huge loss to this town," said Michael Ryan who has worked in Pall for the last ten years.
"The town is finished now, this is the end of it" said the distraught employee.
He warned politicians not to even bother canvassing in the town because people were very angry about the state of the country. "The country has died a death because of Fianna FAil, look at how many people are out of work now in Tipperary town. I would advise Martin Mansergh not to knock on any doors, he will be run out of the town," said an angry Mr Ryan.
The anger was echoed by his colleague Joey O'Dwyer who said all of the workers were angry and upset because they knew there was 'nothing there for us now'
Mr O'Dwyer said Tipp Co-op was all that was left in the town now and he feared a lot of the workforce would now have to leave the country to try and get a job.
He said the workforce were totally shocked by the sudden announcement because "we have never made as much stuff as we have done in the last few months, people were on overtime and things were very busy. Nobody can understand why they are closing down the plant when it was so busy".
"We asked the manager where were the jobs going but we got no reply. Everybody is disgusted. They were good employers but it's over now, I have to go home and tell the missus the bad news," he said.
As the workers left the Pall building at lunchtime on Thursday, the company issued a statement outlining its reasons for closing the plant.
General Manager David O'Driscoll said they regretted the impact of the closure on employees and their families and said the company was proud of them and all they had accomplished together.
"We have a plant in Tipperary where we are only using a fraction of the available capacity. This impacts our costs. The consolidation is designed to strengthen the company's competitive position, reduce fixed and operating costs, and move operations closer to customers.
This has not been an easy decision and Pall Ireland is committed to treating employees with dignity and respect. The company will be assisting and supporting everyone affected by today's announcement to help make the transition as painless as possible," he said.
Mayor of Tipperary Billy Bourke, who was made redundant from Pall in 2009, said his immediate concern was for the workers and their families and he urged the various agencies (Enterprise Ireland, FAS,IDA, County Enterprise Board, Tipperary Institute and South Tiperary County Council) under the County Development Board to respond quickly to their plight.
"It is disappointing to note that the decision to close the plant was stated as being a "Global Consolidation" with no reference to the financial viability or performance of the company," said the mayor who praised the local workforce.