Staff shocked as pharmaceutical giant axes 160
PHARMACEUTICAL giant Schering-Plough is to axe 160 jobs in Ireland as part of a global rationalisation programme.
However, Schering-Plough -- which completed a €30bn merger last year with fellow US pharmaceutical giant, Merck -- insisted that the job losses and cost reductions were designed to secure the long-term future of their Cork plant.
The Irish Independent understands that the bulk of the job losses will be in manufacturing and plant production operations -- with only a limited number of senior positions impacted. Research and development is unlikely to be affected.
The company said it was not in a position at the current time to offer a detailed breakdown of where the jobs would be lost.
Politicians and business leaders reacted with shock to the news -- with Schering-Plough now the third major Cork-based pharmaceutical firm at the centre of job loss fears over recent months.
Last May, Pfizer announced it could axe up to 785 jobs.
In June, UK pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline was forced to deny reports that hundreds of jobs were at risk within their overall Irish operation.
Schering-Plough employs 519 staff at its hi-tech plant at Brinny, located between Bandon and Cork city.
Yesterday, workers were asked to attend a special staff briefing at 1.30pm and were informed that the workforce would be reduced by 160 in the three years to 2013.
Schering-Plough insisted that it hoped to achieve all the job losses through voluntary redundancies.
Schering-Plough's Brinny site director, John Howell, said that the plan offered the plant "a superb opportunity" to secure its future.
"While the transformation programme outlined today will be extremely challenging for us all, it also presents us with a superb opportunity," he said.
"(This will be) to work collectively and support each other through a process where we can have a significant influence on securing a future where growth and further investment and development of the site remain a real possibility. We are committed to treating affected employees with respect and providing them with appropriate resources during the transition period," he added.
Worker Sinead Collins said that staff were trying to look on the positive side, with the firm signalling an ongoing commitment to its Irish operation.
"It was a very detailed discussion -- it was positive enough. We got a very good outline of what is going ahead in the future over the next couple of months.
"But, other than that, I think people have to try and take it on board now," she said.
Trade union officials admitted the announcement came as a massive shock.
TEEU official Pat Guilfoyle said it was "a huge blow for the workers, their families and indeed the greater Cork economy".
SIPTU's Paul Depuis said the job losses were confirmed "out of the blue".
"This has sent shock waves through the entire workforce and what we want now is a cooling off period from the company so people can come to terms with this and we can then move into mediation as early as possible," he said.
"Our main priority now is to try and tie down as many jobs as we can here," he added.
Schering-Plough established their Cork plant almost 30 years ago and, over the past two decades, has invested more than €310m in the facility.
Last year, drugs produced at Brinny earned the US firm more than €2bn and products were exported from the Cork plant to 90 countries worldwide.