Cork, Carlow plant closures threaten 260 jobs

FACTORY closures were announced in Carlow and Millstreet yesterday, stripping more than 260 manufacturing jobs from recognised employment black-spots.

At 11am the motor industry toolmaker Läpple informed its 140 staff in Carlow it will close its Irish base this year.

The moved prompted Taoiseach Bertie Ahern to warn that if the economy “stays still we will lose ground”.

He said the move showed a continuing threat posed by cheaper economies.

His words ironically mimicked Läpple’s company motto — “to stand still is to fall behind”.

“We can never take our focus off improving competitiveness and trying to win direct foreign investment. There are more of the new eastern countries trying to win investment and we just have to get sharper,” he said.

His comments came on the same day the electronic-parts manufacturer Molex told its staff in north Cork a restructuring operation meant all of their jobs would be moved to its Irish headquarters at Shannon.

Both towns have been hit by a series of job losses.

Carlow lost its sugar industry last year along with further cuts at the Braun plant while in north Cork a number of prominent companies shut down include Alps and Keating’s Bakery.

The closure of Läpple ends a 33-year relationship with the town where it has been a significant employer and training centre producing skilled toolmakers.

Unite (Amicus section) union official Billy Kyne said workers were angry about how the company handled the closure when many of the skilled workers will not find work easily.

“For the past number weeks and months we felt this was coming so the announcement was met with both inevitability and sadness.

“People are angry that not enough was done by the company to keep the jobs and given a fair wind the factory could have been saved,” he said.

Mr Kyne said the loss of quality technical jobs showed the Government did not appreciate the true value of the country’s manufacturing sector.

In the past 15 years Läpple has twice recovered from difficult periods when it slimmed down its Carlow plant but in a statement the company said it was no longer viable.

“The closure is due to the Carlow plant incurring heavy losses in recent years, during which time it has been seriously impacted by the increasing competitive and cost pressures that are affecting Ireland’s manufacturing sector,” it said.

In Millstreet, Molex told its staff it wants to bring all of its Irish operations to Shannon and it will decide how to do this in the next month.

For the past eight years it has been developing a large manufacturing presence in Slovakia, where it is concentrating much of its European labour-intensive work.

It owns 65 plants in 20 countries. It has been changing the nature of its Shannon base from production to research and development in the last decade.

It would not comment on whether any of its 400 Shannon workers would be affected.

Enterprise Minister Micheál Martin said nobody could preempt what Molex would do but the IDA has been told to keep in touch with the situation to see what can be done.

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