Minister ‘must set up taskforce over Schering’

THE Enterprise Minister must establish a taskforce in his constituency after a pharmaceutical giant yesterday announced plans to shed 160 jobs over three years.

The call came from Jim O’Keeffe, FG, after Schering-Plough, one of the country’s longest established pharmachem companies, briefed 519 staff at its headquarters in Co Cork.

Management said the job losses are part of cost reduction proposals designed to secure the future of the plant within the Merck & Co Inc global network.

They said the company will, where possible, try to achieve the redundancies through voluntary means.

A consultation process is now under way with unions, including SIPTU and the TEEU, which represent about 350 of the workers.

Site director at Brinny John Howell said the cost-saving measures will be extremely challenging. But he said they also present “a superb opportunity” to work through a process that could help secure growth and further investment and development of the site.

“We are committed to treating affected employees with respect and providing them with appropriate resources during the transition period,” he said.

The plant is located in the Cork North West constituency of Enterprise Minister Batt O’Keeffe. His spokesperson said the cost reductions were required to secure the company’s long-term future in Cork.

He said the minister has asked the IDA to liaise directly with company management and consider any available training and research and development grants. Fás has also been directed to support workers who may lose their jobs.

Jim O’Keeffe said the taskforce should have concrete recommendations within six months.

SIPTU official Alan O’Leary said the workforce was shocked at the announcement. “We will be seeking an early engagement with the company to examine the implications of these job cutting proposals for our members,” he said.

Established in 1971, the Schering-Plough Brinny plant makes Intron A – a key ingredient in a drug which supports the immune system of cancer patients.

Schering-Plough also has plants in Bray and Rathdrum, Co Wicklow. The Bray plant is due to close by the middle of next year with the loss of 240 jobs.

Last year, Schering-Plough merged with the multinational pharmaceutical company Merck in a $41 billion deal.

The Brinny job cuts are part of the company’s cost cutting plan, announced early last year which is designed to increase competitiveness, where some €19m is being invested in the upgrading of its technology and production facilities.


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