Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer today announced plans to shut down three of its Irish facilities and reduce operations at a fourth, with the loss of 785 jobs.
Enterprise Minister Batt O'Keefe described the move as deeply regrettable but said the Government would do all it could to aid those affected.
Pfizer said it plans to exit operations at its solid-dose plant in Loughbeg and biotechnology plant in Shanbally, both close to Ringaskiddy, Co Cork, and at its aseptic facility in Dun Laoghaire,
The company said it would make a "concerted effort" to find buyers for all three sites earmarked for closure.
It is also to reduce operations at its solid-dose facility in Newbridge, Co Kildare.
The plans are to come into effect over the next 18 months to five years.
The company said that a reduction of the Newbridge operation would impact 275 jobs, with a further 510 at risk due to the plant closures - 210 in Dun Laoghaire, 225 in Loughbeg and 75 in Shanbally.
"Pfizer is keenly aware of the impact these changes will have on its colleagues, the community, and the country, and the company will make a concerted effort to sell the sites where operations are intended to be discontinued," the company said.
The measures, announced this afternoon to coincide with the opening of the New York Stock Exchange, form part of Pfizer's global restructuring plan following its acquisition last year of rival Wyeth in a $68bn (€54.8bn) deal.
The implementation of the first phase of what Pfizer calls its "Plant Network Strategy" also includes recommendations to cease operations at manufacturing sites in the US and Puerto Rico, as well as to reduce operations at six other plants in Germany, Puerto Rico, the UK and the US.
The company aims to reduce its global workforce by 6,000.
"These steps are necessary to bring our manufacturing capacity in line with demand and to increase network efficiencies so that we will remain competitive on a global basis," said company spokesperson Paul Duffy.
"As is often the case with a merger of two large companies, the integration of Pfizer and Wyeth resulted in excess manufacturing capacity and the duplication of resources.
"In the case of our growing biotechnology business, the recommendations will enable us to operate more efficiently."
Minister O'Keefe said the Government’s priority would be to provide training and re-employment services to the 275 workers losing their jobs in Newbridge, and to work with Pfizer to save the other 510 jobs at risk in Cork and Dublin.
"The State’s job creation and training agencies, including FÁS, Enterprise Ireland, IDA Ireland and the relevant County Enterprise Boards, will provide every possible support to the workers and the company in managing the impact of today's announcement," Minister O'Keefe said.
"IDA Ireland has a strong track record in sourcing same-sector replacement industries for vacated facilities and I will be urging the agency to prioritise its endeavours in the cases of the plants in Cork and Dublin."
Minister O’Keeffe said despite the job losses it was important to remember Pfizer remains a big player in Irish industry.
“Although the company plans to cut its global headcount by 6,000, Pfizer remains a major multinational employer in Ireland, with more than 4,200 workers involved in the manufacture of high-end products for the life science industry worldwide,” he said.
Pfizer said it will continue to employ about 4,200 staff in Ireland and was continuing to look at investment and expansion opportunities.
It is planning to enhance its biotechnology operations, with jobs expected to be created in the division.
Ciaran Lynch, Labour TD in Cork, said communities across the entire region would be hit by the loss of skilled well-paid jobs.
“When we start haemorrhaging jobs like this, in an international export-driven sector, we really do have to sit up and take notice,” Mr Lynch said.
“Cork Harbour has often been represented as a pharmaceutical centre of excellence, and rightly so. However, when one of the world’s leading producers and a flagship company in the area seeks to reduce its operations so dramatically, it is ominous indeed.”