900 staff under threat in black day for jobs

Global pharmaceutical firm MSD’s announcement that it is to close its Swords plant with the potential loss of 570 jobs comes less than nine months after it confirmed 280 people were to be let go with the closure of its Wicklow facility.

MSD yesterday told workers in Swords that it plans to cease operations by the end of 2017. Of the 570 people losing their jobs, 130 will be let go in the second half of next year. The rest of the posts will be phased out over the following three years.

There was further bad news on the jobs front yesterday as a receiver appointed to fashion retailer A-Wear warned it was “inevitable” that stores would have to close permanently. A-Wear had been in examinership since October. The company employs 358 people across Ireland, 117 full-time and 241 part-time.

At MSD, management said it would work with the IDA to “aggressively” pursue a buyer for the facility in order to potentially mitigate job losses.

“Swords has been an important manufacturing site since 1990 and has a long history of operational excellence,” said MSD site director Tony Pusic. “The proposal to cease operations is not a reflection of the site’s performance or the highly skilled people working here. The proposal is an outcome of MSD’s ongoing review of its worldwide manufacturing capacity that has resulted in sites being sold, closed or consolidated in all regions of the world.”

MSD plans to relocate products manufactured in Swords — prescription medicines in the area of women’s health, anaesthesia, and psychiatry — to sites in the Netherlands, the US, and Belgium, as well as to third-party manufacturers in Europe and the US.

MSD employs more than 2,000 people at sites in Carlow, Cork, Leopardstown, Tipperary, and Wicklow. Those sites are not affected by yesterday’s announcement, though MSD announced it was closing its facility in Rathdrum, Co Wicklow, with the loss of 280 jobs last March. That site is expected to close by the end of 2015.

IDA chief executive Barry O’Leary said the extended lead-in time of 2017 for the Swords closure would facilitate his organisation greatly in finding a buyer.

“IDA Ireland has a good track record in finding buyers for pharmaceutical sites such as this. IDA Ireland has previously facilitated purchases of major sites like MSD’s in Swords from global pharma companies such as Pfizer and Wyeth.”

Enterprise Minister Richard Bruton said the announcement “in no way reflects the quality of operations or the workforce in Ireland, but relates to a consolidation the company is engaged in globally to deal with excess capacity following the purchase of Schering Plough”.

Matt Corcoran, MSD’s site lead in Brinny, Co Cork, said the thoughts of workers there were with their colleagues in Swords.

“I can confirm that the Swords announcement will have no impact on operations here in Cork,” he said.

In the last five decades, MSD said it has invested over €2.2bn in Ireland.


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