Almost 200 jobs were axed today at a medical devices plant in the Midlands.
The grim news was broken to devastated workers at the Covidien factory in Tullamore, Co Offaly, during a meeting with management and union bosses.
Frank Jones, Siptu official in Tullamore, said Covidien was by far the biggest employer in the area.
“People are just shocked,” he said.
“The announcement is being made in the plant and there are tears, absolute shock.
“We’ve husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, and sons and daughters working alongside one another.”
A total of 650 people were employed at the site in Sragh Industrial Estate, which has been in operation since 1982.
Mr Jones said management plans to look for 160 voluntary redundancies and to let go 39 temporary workers who started work early last year.
An intensive consultation period begins tomorrow, he added.
In a statement, Covidien said temporary workers would be released over the next few weeks and believed the remaining job losses could be met on a voluntary basis.
It said the cuts would ensure the longer-term viability of operations in Tullamore and enable the facility to compete globally.
“Since 2008, Covidien has seen declining sales and increased competition from low cost manufacturers for the medical supplies products manufactured in Tullamore,” it stated.
“The company has made significant investments to automate key product lines to competitively position the plant for the future. A further investment of approximately three million euro is planned for this year.
“Covidien has exhausted all other actions before making the decision to offer a comprehensive early retirement and voluntary separation programme to our employees in Tullamore.”
Mr Jones said the job losses were due to start from September – with full-time workers expected to secure a severance package of six weeks pay for every year of service plus the statutory two weeks entitlement.
The factory is in the heart of the Laois-Offaly constituency of Taoiseach Brian Cowen and next to the former Boston Scientific factory, which finally closed last year with the loss of hundreds of jobs.
The union official said the job cuts at Covidien – formerly Tyco Healthcare - will have a widespread effect across the area.
“The whole community in Tullamore is shock by this, not just the plant,” added Mr Jones.
“This came as a bolt out of the blue.
“We knew things weren’t great, but we weren’t prepared for this.
“We had no forewarning that there was going to be anything happening.
“We regularly meet management, and met them last Friday and there was no notice of this.”