Specialist skill set will help workers find jobs
HUNDREDS of the 785 Pfizer employees whose jobs now face the axe have a fighting chance of securing new employment within the pharmaceutical sector because of their specialist skills.
Around half of the Pfizer employees involved are graduates, some with prized specialisms in pharmaceutical and biological research and development (R&D).
The remainder are highly skilled technical and manufacturing operatives, many of whom boast production skills that are sought after within Ireland's pharmaceutical sector.
But crucially, a significant portion of those who now face losing their jobs -- where wages vary from an estimated €50,000 to €110,000 -- may opt for voluntary redundancy as they are within 10 years of retirement.
This could include up to 20pc of those whose jobs now face the axe.
RecruitIreland's Sinead Johnson said some of the Pfizer workers would have skills that are in great demand within an industry where recruitment is still reasonably strong, despite the economic downturn.
"The skills and experience of the people in Pfizer Ireland are a huge asset as they seek new companies in the life-science sector to take over the facilities," she told the Irish Independent.
Cork is the world's second greatest centre of pharmaceutical operations after Switzerland -- and there is a continuous demand for skilled staff.
"With the Government drive to promote and incentivise the R&D sector in the pharmaceutical, green-energy and IT industries, the specialist skills that Pfizer employees have are hugely transferable," added Ms Johnson.
Unlike other segments of the Irish economy where recruitment has been frozen for the past 18 months, the pharmaceutical-chemical industry is still recruiting skilled staff, with one in seven jobs offered now involving a pharmachem firm.
"Approximately 7pc of (Irish) jobs advertised at the moment are in the science/pharmaceutical sector," the RecruitIreland official added.
The American Chamber of Commerce in Ireland (ACCI), which represents US multinationals here, said that while the Pfizer announcement was disappointing, new buyers for the three plants could well emerge.
"The company's stated commitment to work with the IDA to seek buyers for the impacted sites also has the potential to mitigate the impact of this announcement and could lead to employment growth in the future," said ACCI chief executive, Joanne Richardson.
The ACCI pointed out that Pfizer would continue to employ 4,000 people in Ireland and that over the past year 17 major investments by US firms had created more than 1,000 jobs in Ireland.
Now, Pfizer workers who opt to accept the severance package face being allowed six weeks' wages per year of service -- which is being described as a generous redundancy package.
Pfizer said last night that it was impossible to give an estimated average salary figure for their employees. The company stressed that pay varied, depending on specialisation, qualification and job responsibility.
It has also vowed to use the 18-month to five-year period for achieving the redundancies to offer staff a range of up-skilling or retraining programmes aimed at making them more attractive to other employers.
Furthermore, if buyers can be found for the three Pfizer/Wyeth plants that face the axe, a significant portion of the 785 workers may not end up losing their jobs.
This is expected to prove true for the Dun Laoghaire (Co Dublin) and Shanbally (Co Cork) plants, which have been the focus of massive upgrading programmes over recent years.
The biologics plant at Shanbally was only opened last year, having been built at a cost of €190m.
The plant, which employs 75 staff, is believed to be ideal for a smaller pharmaceutical company seeking a cutting-edge biologics R&D facility.
Dun Laoghaire is similarly cutting-edge and was the focus of a total investment of €240m by Pfizer since 2005.
"The reality is that plants like this are modern, high-tech facilities, which we hope will attract great interest in the market.
"But we do not underestimate how difficult the marketplace is at the moment," Pfizer manufacturing boss Paul Duffy said.