Employees make ‘social charter’ redundancy plea to former pharmaceutical plant owner

Employees at a drugs’ manufacturer which was put into administration are hoping to make an unusual plea under the social responsibility charter of a former owner.

Employees make ‘social charter’ redundancy plea to former pharmaceutical plant owner

Employees at a drugs’ manufacturer which was put into administration are hoping to make an unusual plea under the social responsibility charter of a former owner after 115 employees were left without redundancy despite concerns having been raised when the plant was sold four years ago for €1.

Union representatives at the plant in Shannon Town, Co Clare, are hoping to talk in the next few days with UCB — an international drugs manufacturer which is based in Brussels — and which owned the plant until 2016 before it sold it for the nominal sum to a US drugs group called Avara.

Avara was granted permission by the High Court last month to appoint administrators to the Shannon company but it emerged that there was no money for the company to fund a redundancy scheme.

A union representative told the Irish Examiner that staff felt aggrieved that they were not protected by Irish legislation even though concerns about the future of the plant and the redundancy scheme were raised at the time of the sale by UCB to Avara.

TDs in Co Clare and business groups have been canvassed for their support.

The plea to UCB is an unusual one because there appears to be no legal responsibility for the Belgian company to fund any type of employee scheme for the Irish-based company, which it successfully sold four years ago.

The Shannon plant is one of a number of drugs plants that Avara acquired around the world in recent years from different owners and whose futures are in doubt.

However, Shannon staff representatives hope to draw on the example of a drugs plant in Bristol, which was also bought by Avara for a nominal amount around two years from drugs company AstraZeneca.

Avara earlier this year successfully got court-appointed administrators appointed to the Bristol plant. The Times newspaper in London reported earlier this month that AstraZenca had agreed to commit £12m (€13.2m) to cover redundancy payments in Bristol following criticism from MPs, union leaders, and employees there.

In the case of Shannon, staff representatives appear to be making their plea to former owner UCB on the basis of the company’s corporate and social responsibility charter which many large pharmaceutical companies adhere to. A union representative said staff hoped to talk with UCB in the next few days.

A spokeswoman for UCB told the Irish Examiner it sold the plant to Avara Shannon Pharmaceuticals Services Limited in 2016.

“As with previous divestments, due diligence was performed by UCB, including on the buyer and the new management. UCB is actively seeking to better understand the situation and has recently engaged with employee representatives and Avara management to aid this process,” said the spokeswoman.

She said it was “very much aware this is a very difficult time” for the Shannon employees and that the company hoped to be able to tell company employees of its position by the end of this week.

The High Court last month appointed KPMG’s Shane McCarthy and insolvency practitioner Edwin Kirker as joint provisional liquidators to the Avara company in Shannon last month.

The court heard that the plant had been lossmaking this year and was sold for €1 in 2016.

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