Tuesday 21 October 2014

1,100 jobs at risk over 20pc pay cut demand

Anne-Marie Walsh Industry Correspondent

Published 30/05/2014 | 02:30

ALL 1,100 jobs at contact lens maker Bausch and Lomb will be lost unless it gets €21m savings.

In an ultimatum to shocked staff at its Waterford plant, the US company said it is set to slash 200 jobs and cut pay by 20pc to bring it in line with its US workers' wages. But if the remaining staff refuse to accept the 20pc pay cut all the jobs will be axed.

Staff got a devastating blow yesterday when Bausch and Lomb announced it needed "substantial cost reductions" to keep the plant open.

It said it aimed to bring costs closer to those in Rochester, New York, where wage rates are 30pc lower.

"The feeling inside is anger," said one devastated worker after hearing the news. "I don't think people are going to roll over. The country is down the tubes."

SIPTU called on the Government to step up its efforts to keep jobs at the plant, which is the largest employer in the South East.

It said it would try to reach agreement on a deal to reduce the number of redundancies.

“Each and every job saved is a household spared the considerable financial worry and concern associated with losing employment,” said Sector Organiser Alan O’Leary.

The union is due to meet the company next Tuesday to begin negotiations, which include talks on a redundancy package.

Vice President of Manufacturing at the global eye health company, Angelo Conti, said a review of its manufacturing facilities showed that Bausch and Lomb’s costs in Waterford are “substantially out of line” with other plants.

“Given Bausch and Lomb is currently trailing its competitors in the global contact lens market with a distant fourth position in market share, the status quo is not sustainable,” he said.

“We are now faced with a stark choice; restructure in Waterford and secure its future, or see the plant close.”

Bausch and Lomb, owned by the Canadian Valeant Pharmaceuticals company, trades in ophthalmic pharmaceuticals, contact lenses, lens care products, ophthalmic surgical devices and instruments in over 100 countries.

Although global demand for contact lenses rose by between 15pc and 20pc in the last five years, Bausch and Lomb has been unable to compete with cut-price competitors.

Industry sources said the popularity of laser eye surgery has not had a significant impact on the market.

Jobs Minister Richard Bruton is under fire after Independent TD John Halligan said it was “deeply disturbing” that he failed to reveal the cuts were on the cards despite knowing about them for weeks.

Mr Halligan said pay in the company’s New York plant is close to the minimum wage in the US. But Mr Bruton hit back, claiming he had been engaging with Bausch and Lomb for months, along with the IDA, to secure as many jobs as possible.

He said his department and the IDA had plans for substantial financial support for a |major investment by the company if the “restructuring” is successful.

Mr Bruton said while there was much positive news on the jobs front recently, this news was a reminder that “we must fight continually to remain competitive, to win new investment and jobs and maintain the ones we have”.

He said a similar restructuring process in the past year at one of Bausch and Lomb’s other plants abroad resulted in it remaining open.

Fianna Fail Spokesperson on Jobs, Dara Calleary, said the cuts at the company are a major blow to the county at a time it can least afford it.

Irish Independent

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