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Friday 19 September 2014

'If Bausch and Lomb goes, we might as well close city'

Louise Hogan, Anne-Marie Walsh and Conor Kane

Published 05/06/2014 | 02:30

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Michelle Griffin (22) who is unemployed and from Waterford city.
Michelle Griffin (22) who is unemployed and from Waterford city.
Margaret Power and Aisling Kelly in Tuckaway Coffee shop in Waterford city. Picture: Mark Condren
Margaret Power and Aisling Kelly in Tuckaway Coffee shop in Waterford city. Picture: Mark Condren
Darryl Hale of Alfie Hale Sports in Waterford city. Photo: Mark Condren

"IF we lose Bausch and Lomb, we might as well close up Waterford city," came the warning from one concerned shop owner.

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Outside the contact lens manufacturing facility in the heart of the IDA's sprawling industrial complex, the matter was being discussed in quiet whispers by fearful workers.

But in the heart of Waterford city the potential loss of 200 jobs was being loudly debated.

If hundreds of jobs were to go, and another 900 workers were to suffer deep pay cuts, then pubs, shops and cafes would be caught in the damaging ripple-effect.

Aisling Kelly from Tuckaway Coffee Shop, where people have been popping in for their famous scones for more than 33 years, voiced her concern.

"We're an industrial city and unfortunately we've lost an awful lot of money," she said.

"With Talk Talk going, the downfall from that was absolutely horrendous when that initially happened. The city basically came to a screeching halt."

Next door, Declan Conway from City Jewellers – a member of the city's business group – said they were already working hard to get the city back on its feet through council rate cuts and other measures.

Darryl Hale from the well-known family business Alfie Hale Sports shop described how traders struggled as they witnessed a dramatic fall-off in footfall in recent years.

"Going back to the Waterford Crystal closure, that was probably the start of it – but it just seems to be a downward spiral," he said.

"Waterford seems to be particularly badly hit. The last thing we need is more unemployment or pay cuts in the general area. There are quite a lot of vacant units in the town."

Inside in O'Flynn's family-run butchers, the next generation of the more than a century-old firm, Ben (24) was busily instructing a purchaser to core an apple to go along with her boiled ham.

"Even wage cuts make a huge difference – you'd notice that people would be getting less and less stuff," he said.

"I've a lot of friends who don't work and I've over a dozen friends who've left the country in the past two years."

Independent TD for Waterford, John Halligan, claimed almost 2,500 jobs at IDA Ireland-backed firms have been cut since 2008, with 500 created.

But the IDA stressed it was working "extremely hard" to inform companies of the financial supports on offer to locate in regional areas.

Waterford was anxiously waiting for word from ongoing talks, as it emerged that unions were set to table proposals to cut Bausch and Lomb workers' holidays and increase their hours in a bid to avoid a 20pc pay cut.

Concern

It also emerged Ireland's embassy in Washington has contacted US Democratic senator Charles Schumer to raise concerns over his call for the 1,100 jobs to be moved to New York.

Across the country, there was also growing concern in Westport as Bausch and Lomb's parent company, the Canadian Valeant Pharmaceuticals firm, bids to purchase major employer Allergen Pharmaceuticals.

Fine Gael TD John O'Mahony said there had been some "concern" following the potential job losses at the Waterford firm.

However, James O'Doherty from the Westport Chamber of Commerce insisted the jobs at Allergan were secure as it was in the midst of a €257m expansion.

Irish Independent

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