Update: Tánaiste promises all available support following 'significant blow' to Cork of Novartis job losses

Update: Tánaiste promises all available support following 'significant blow' to Cork of Novartis job losses
Job losses at Novartis, Ringaskiddy, Co. Cork.Picture: Jim Coughlan.

Latest: Tánaiste Simon Coveney has described the hundreds of job losses at Novartis this morning as a “significant blow" for those working in the company and their families.

The Cork South Central TD said that he had been in contact with the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys, as well as the IDA to ensure all available supports from state agencies are open to the staff affected by the announcement.

“The staff are highly skilled in the competitive pharmaceutical industry and the state agencies will use the 3-year timeline laid out by Novartis to work with the company and the workers to protect employment,” he said.

Meanwhile, the business community has also been reacting to this morning’s news.

Conor Healy, Chief Executive of Cork Chamber, told the Echo that while it was known a review was taking place within the company globally, the timing of today’s announcement has come very suddenly.

“Our thoughts are with those who are getting that difficult news this morning,” he said.

Meanwhile, Mr Healy has welcomed the news that staff are not being let go immediately as it increases their chances of finding alternative employment: “The sector as a whole is continuing to grow. There’s ongoing recruitment across pharma, biotech and the life sciences sector in general in Cork.

"With the timeframe and the buoyancy of the sector as a whole I’d be very hopeful that with the support of the agencies, the Regional Skills Forum and other local groups that those workers will hopefully be able to find replacement employment,” he said.

“Cork Chamber will continue to work to support the growth of this key sector in Cork and drive new opportunities in the region for the highly skilled 320 people affected by this decision,” Mr Healy added.

A statement released by Novartis says that the decision to consolidate its active pharmaceutical ingredient manufacturing operations in Ringaskiddy is strategic and part of an ongoing evaluation of the worldwide manufacturing network.

Shane Relihan, Managing Director at Novartis Ringaskiddy said: “Today is a very difficult day for everyone associated with Novartis Ringaskiddy. It is important to say that this decision is not a reflection of the performance of our dedicated colleagues who have worked hard to supply our customers and patients.” He went on to reassure those affected that the move will have no immediate impact. “We will also work with our industry partners across the pharmaceutical industry cluster here in Cork to identify future employment opportunities in the area,” Mr. Relihan said.

Meanwhile, Loretto Callaghan, Country President of Novartis in Ireland said: “We will offer every support to the team at Novartis Ringaskiddy in the years ahead.”

Earlier: The loss of 320 jobs at the Novartis plant in Ringaskiddy has been described as devastating by the Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin.

Staff were called to a meeting at the firm’s plant this morning at 8am and told there will be job losses in business support, administration, production, planning and testing.

The company has been conducting a review of its worldwide operations.

The company also employs staff at a business centre in Dublin but it is not expected they will not be affected.

Speaking to the Echo this morning Deputy Martin said it was worrying, and should be a huge warning sign to the Government that the Cork plant has been identified for these job losses in the context of a world review within the company.

“I know a lot of workers there. A lot of people in my own club work in Novartis. I know many families who work there, and it will be devastating news for them in particular.”

“Obviously there’ll be negotiations with the company in terms of supporting workers, in terms of redundancy packages and so on, but the most important thing for the workers in the area is can we secure alternative employment in the Ringaskiddy area, particularly in the pharma area.

“Pharma has been a huge resilient element of the Cork industrial story for over 50 years, and it’s extremely important to ensure that we can maintain our competitiveness in the pharmaceutical industry in the region.” 

Picture; David Creedon / Anzenberger
Picture; David Creedon / Anzenberger

Cork Labour T.D. Seán Sherlock, meanwhile, labelled the decision by Novartis to half the number of jobs at their Ringaskiddy Plant as a ‘hammer blow’ for the Cork region. 

"That this would come just a few weeks before Christmas will be a hard blow for many families. That is before taking into account the large number of ancillary jobs that are supported by Novartis, through sub contracts for services so the figure could be a lot higher.

“That these pharma job losses in Cork follow a further 500 announced yesterday is deeply worrying and the Government must respond to the merging trend and ensure any further losses are mitigated.

“There are over 320 families facing into an uncertain future and whether they will be able to find jobs in the Cork region to match their skills.

“Just as the Minister has visited Shannon, she should visit Cork to outline if these jobs can be saved and to outline what measures will be put in place to protect the pharmaceutical and manufacturing sector in the region.” 

Lord Mayor Cllr John Sheehan described the news of the job losses as disappointing: “Cork is a leader in pharmaceutical employment and we will work with state agencies to do everything we can to help source alternative employment for people.

“I empathise and sympathise with those who have lost jobs. This is a very difficult situation for people who have worked so long and hard. The only advice I can give to employees would be to avoid making any sudden decisions. This is going to be a very gradual process and people will have time to consider their options,” he added.

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