Taoiseach Bertie Ahern tonight insisted the Government would do everything it could to help 280 employees facing redundancy after cosmetics giant Procter & Gamble announced massive cuts.
Shifting its skincare manufacturing from Tipperary to a low-cost base in Poland, the company will slash more than half of its workforce in Nenagh by the end of 2009 in a cost-cutting drive.
As the opposition called for a coherent job-creation plan for the area, Mr Ahern said the state’s enterprise agencies had already been engaged.
The Taoiseach noted that the cuts were not as bad as had been feared and said: “But that won’t stop us in our determination to move fast to help those individuals in terms of training and trying to get alternative industry in there.”
He said IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Micheál Martin would be working together to support the area.
Procter & Gamble said 220 staff would be kept on in the Nenagh factory making top-of-the-range cosmetics for Hugo Boss, D&G and Lacoste.
It is the second devastating jobs blow for the Mid-West in as many days after software firm Thomson Scientific announced yesterday that it was shedding 200 posts in Limerick.
Despite Procter & Gamble making operating profits of €10m last year, management are eyeing even bigger returns in Poland.
The company said the decision was taken from a purely economic and financial perspective, with production of skincare products moving closer to faster growing markets in central and eastern Europe.
Mindy Thompson, manager of the Nenagh plant, said it was a difficult decision and not a reflection of the high-quality workforce in Ireland.
“Our focus is now to work closely with our employees to ensure they are supported at this time and through the transition ahead,” she said.
“We will maximise the opportunity we’ve been given for the future of the Nenagh plant to become the focus of our European cosmetics supply chain operations.”
Procter & Gamble has been based in Nenagh for more than 20 years and is by far the biggest employer in the town.
Green Party enterprise spokesman Eamon Ryan said: “We now need to encourage and boost our own enterprise sector so that it is able to compete on the world market while providing and retaining jobs at home.”
Sinn Féin’s Martin Ferris called for action.
“I am calling on the Minister for Enterprise, Micheál Martin, to produce a coherent plan to source employment and job creation in the south-west as a matter of urgency,” the Kerry TD said.
Mr Martin said: “While the fact that 220 jobs will be maintained at Nenagh is to be welcomed, in the intervening two years FAS and the other agencies of the state will give the workers losing their jobs every possible support in securing alternative employment.”
Ruairí Quinn, Labour Party enterprise spokesman, said the Government should use the €500m European Union fund set aside to help a region where redundancies have a serious and negative impact on a local economy and employment.
Economists have warned that manufacturers have been forced out of Ireland in recent years as the cost of doing business has gone up sharply from rising wages, energy and transport costs.
Last year alone there were 23,684 job losses and so far this year around 2,100 people have been told they are facing redundancy.
Tipperary has suffered particularly badly. Last April the BSN medical company, based in Thurles, revealed that it would close by the end of the year with the loss of 80 jobs.
In 2001 GMX manufacturing axed 250 posts and the following year pharmaceutical company Aventis-Pharma also cut 250 jobs.
Staff at Erin Foods in Thurles are also facing an uncertain future after the Competition Authority told its parent company Premier Foods Ireland it had to off-load the business after a merger. It is now looking to sell Erin Foods as a going concern.
Shannon Airport is also seeking 90 redundancies.