Job losses for Athlone as Covidien moves manufacturing line to Thailand
JOBS are under threat at a leading multinational medical devices company after it revealed plans to move a major manufacturing wing to Thailand.
The 600-strong workforce at the Covidien plant in Athlone were yesterday warned about possible cuts and talks on redundancy have begun.
The healthcare giant refused to give an indication on potential job losses, claiming it also planned to boost its R&D division at the site and bring in other product manufacturing.
Tanaiste and Foreign Affairs Minister Eamon Gilmore said he was concerned about the possible redundancies.
"I want to express my own concern about the announcement made by Covidien," he said.
"It is too early for the company to state how many jobs will be impacted as they are also looking to bring in new products and technology to the site."
Rhonda Luniak, the vice-president of communications, respiratory and monitoring solutions at Covidien, said it will take two years to complete the manufacturing move.
"We discussed as part of a regular update to our employees, we let them know that we are assessing employee interest in a voluntary separation programme," she said.
"We have not been talking about any specific numbers because we are also planning to move additional products into the plant and we expect the R&D efforts that are there to bring in new products."
Ms Luniak insisted Covidien was determined to keep its Irish presence.
"We remain very committed to our presence in Athlone. We will continue to have strong manufacturing there as well as continued involvement in our R&D functions in Athlone - they continue to be an important part of Covidien," she said.
The transfer of the airways tube manufacturing to Thailand will be completed by the end of 2013.
Ms Luniak claimed the company expects big interest in the redundancy package. Many staff in the manufacturing wing in Athlone have long service and are with the company for much of the 30 years it has been in the Westmeath town.
"We expect the terms of that to be very attractive. We expect that we will get a lot of employee interest," Ms Luniak said.
The production line being moved out of Ireland over the next two years manufactured basic endotracheal tubes. A number of different airways products will continue to be made at Athlone.
Covidien, which is headquartered in Dublin, has operated in Ireland for more than 30 years and currently employs about 1,500 staff.
Jobs Minister Richard Bruton said it was early stages in determining how many jobs may be lost.
"It is heartening that even if there are some job losses they are future proofing their investment there, and they have a long-term commitment here and its important to support investment for the future and strong jobs that are sustainable into the future," Mr Bruton said.
"Unfortunately production lines do move ... but it is disappointing to hear of any jobs under threat."
Mr Bruton said the Covidien announcement was not a signal of a lack of competitiveness.
"This is happening all the time. You'll see this week we had many positive investments ... really dynamic companies investing across all the sectors. Medical devices, which is part of the medical device sector, is a really strong sector in Ireland, particularity in Athlone and the West of Ireland. We have 18 of the top 25 medical devices companies and they continue to invest," he said.
"So there are job opportunities being created but of course products change and product lines change. We have to be at the forefront of the technology that drives that change."