Friday 19 July 2019

'It's a very sad day for the staff and their families' - Tech giant HP confirms 'frightening' 500 job losses

*Close to 500 employees to leave business over next 12 months
*Company released statement confirming job losses after staff meeting
*News of massive job losses "frightening" - local councillor
*Workers arriving at the site declined to make any comment this morning
*Enda Kenny has defended the Government efforts to prevent the job losses

Tech giant HP has announced that employees will be losing their job at the Kildare plant over the next 12 months Photo: Kyran O'Brien
Tech giant HP has announced that employees will be losing their job at the Kildare plant over the next 12 months Photo: Kyran O'Brien
Tech giant HP has announced that employees will be losing their job at the Kildare plant over the next 12 months. Photo: Bloomberg
Deputy James Lawless TD pictured at Hewlett Packard in Leixlip
Tech giant HP has announced that employees will be losing their job at the Kildare plant over the next 12 months Photo: Kyran O'Brien
Tech giant HP has announced that employees will be losing their job at the Kildare plant over the next 12 months Photo: Kyran O'Brien

Conor Feehan, Colm Kelpie, Louise Kelly & John Downing

Tech giant HP has announced that "close to 500 employees" will be losing their job at the Kildare plant over the next 12 months.

Following a meeting with staff earlier this morning, the company released the following statement to media:

"In line with our previously communicated strategy, HP’s global print business is working to drive continuous efficiencies and cost savings that enable investment in new market opportunities and growth initiatives, such as 3D printing.

"As a result, we have made the decision to close our global print business at the Leixlip site. It is likely that close to 500 HP employees will be impacted and leave the business over the next 12 months."

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has defended the Government efforts to prevent the job losses.

Mr Kenny said IDA "intensively" engaged in the situation and its Chief Executive Officer had gone to California to lobby the company. He said that Employment Minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor had spoken spoke to the firm, Hewlett Packard Inc, last week

“Like you, all our concerns and priorities at the moment are with the workers and their families at Hewlett-Packard Inc," the Taoiseach told the Dáil.

The Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin challenged the Taoiseach to explain what Government was doing to help the 500 stricken workers. He also deplored that the workers found out they were losing their livelihoods via media reports.

Mr Kenny said the Social Protection Department would engage with the workers losing their jobs. He agreed that it was wrong the workers should find out through the media – but this was beyond government control.

IDA to work with HP to secure buyer

Commenting on the implications of HP’s decision, IDA Ireland CEO Martin Shanahan said that his "thoughts are with the impacted employees in Leixlip who are receiving this news today. Many of them have been with HP since they first commenced operations there in 1995.”

“IDA Ireland has partnered with HP since the company first arrived into Leixlip over 20 years ago. Throughout this period, the site has gone through many changes as print and hardware technology evolved rapidly," he said.

"The company, supported by IDA, has made a significant contribution to the economy over the past 20+ years. HP Inc.’s decision is regrettable and is driven by company specific issues in light of global market developments and runs counter to the flow of technology investment we continue to see into Ireland.”

Mr Shanahan said the IDA worked with the company to secure continued investment and, in this instance, had put forward proposals to ensure HP ’s continued investment in Ireland, but it has not been possible to secure the site.

“As the company has identified in its own statement, Ireland is an excellent environment for technology companies and we continue to see this in the number of leading global companies that choose Ireland to grow and expand their businesses,” he said.

IDA Ireland sad it will continue to work with the company in the time ahead to secure a buyer for the Leixlip site - and securing investment for Kildare and the surrounding region is a continuing priority.

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Mary Mitchell O’ Connor said her thoughts are with the employees of HP and their families.

"My officials and I, together with the IDA, have had extensive discussions with the company in an effort to avert these job losses," she said.

"I note with regret that the redundancies are arising on account of the company’s global efficiency strategy to accelerate their business transformation."

Minister Mitchell O’ Connor said the transfer of work will be phased over 2017 with planned completion by February 2018.

"HP remains committed to Ireland and they intend to have a continued sales operations presence in Ireland. Today’s announcement also has no bearing whatsoever on the workers and operations of Hewlett Packard Enterprise, a completely separate company that employs over 2,100 people in Leixlip, Galway and Cork.

"It is important for the workers to know that I have asked that all the supports of the state will be made available to any workers affected by this decision. I have spoken with my colleague Leo Varadkar, Minister for Social Protection, and he has confirmed that officials in his Department are being deployed to brief staff on State supports and re-training options.

"I am in daily contact with the IDA and I have asked the Agency to continue with their efforts to ensure jobs are delivered to the region. IDA will continue to work with the company in the time ahead to help secure a buyer for the Leixlip site. Securing investment for Kildare and the surrounding region is a continuing priority."

Frightening

Speaking just after the announcement, local independent councillor Bernard Caldwell, who is also the Cathaoirleach for the municipal district in the Celbridge and Leixlip area, said the news of the massive job losses was "frightening".

 

"Hopefully they are going to be properly treated by Hewlett Packard, as we know, this is a non-union organisation and up to now they have been very good to their staff, so let's hope that will continue.

"This is going to take a year to phase in so we’ll just have to wait and see," he said.

"A lot of people from the site live in Leixlip so it is going to have effects, there are a lot of people here with mortgages, like any town, so over the next few weeks we will hear a lot more of it," he added.

Cllr Caldwell said he hoped the IDA could move to help the workers. He said it had been known since last October there would be global job losses, but nothing definite had been heard since then.

"We got the information last night that that this was going to be announced today, so they’ve all been waiting this morning to see what was going to happen," he explained.

"HP have been a good employer, they are a good employer, and hopefully they will continue to be a good employer and the people who do lose their jobs will get re-employed hopefully because there is a lot of industry in the area and hopefully they can all be re-employed," he added.

"It's a very sad day for Leixlip, north Kildare and the Dublin area. People come to work here from a long way away, and there's a pretty young staff here too," said Cllr Caldwell.

Blow for staff

Kildare North Fianna Fáil TD and technology spokesperson James Lawless said the news was devastating for the 500 workers, their families and for the wider communities.

“It's a bit of a bolt from the blue. HP has a long tradition of investment in Co Kildare and it is a very highly skilled workforce in the area. The demographic would be very much graduates and technology workers. A lot of people commute from Dublin to these technology firms, so this is really a hammer blow,” he told Independent.ie.

“My heart goes out to the workers here today. They are taking the news on board, they are digesting it. It’s never easy to get news like this. I would have an issue with the way it was handled, less than 12 hours notice. It was a breaking story last night and at 10am this morning people were getting this news. Surely there is a better way to communicate and give this news to people,” he explained.

“I understand it is the print area that is being hit, the traditional print industry is changing, but I would have hoped to see some innovation, the likes of 3D printing is a new avenue for print to go. I have asked the HP communications team to clarify the situation with the R&D facility and the Enterprise facility here to see if they can give a commitment to those facilities here,” Deputy Lawless added.

 He also urged the IDA to work with HP and the workers, and asked that relevant ministers be be more pro-active and “get behind the ball”.

Asked if it was an inherent risk within the tech industry that technology changes lead to certain products becoming obsolete, deputy Lawless said it was important for companies to stay ahead of the curve, employ smart people and re-train.

“It means you can catch up and go ahead of the curve and be where it's at. If you commit to your workforce, you commit to training,” he said.

HP Leixlip general manager Maurice O’Connell said that the company's priority obviously has been speaking to the workers through a schedule of communication sessions this morning.

"This decision is really driven by the HP global print strategy, and that strategy simply enough is about driving operation efficiencies and cost savings so we can re-invest those savings back into growth opportunity for the print business.

"A good example would be 3D printing in which we feel we have a tremendous opportunity in the marketplace going forward. As a result of that decision we have decided to exit all of the print activities from the Leixlip site here," he said.

"Up to 500 people will be impacted by theirs decision. It is an unfortunate decision for the employees but this in not means is an adverse reflection on the contribution of this site. It has been in operation since 1995."

Mr O'Connell said the company's focus will be on employees, helping them through this transition period, helping them seek other careers within HP if possible and helping them seek opportunities outside the company.

"Ireland remains a very important market for HP, we will retain the sales and marketing organisation here to support the business," he said.

"It’s really about the need to consolidate to fewer sites. Ireland relatively speaking is a smaller site and we see an opportunity to move activities to larger sites, consolidate those activities there, and achieve operational efficiencies and organisational efficiencies as well.

"I don’t see any positions moving any earlier than July.

"Truthfully employees have been very disappointed, they are saddened by the news. They have had a long relationship with HP in general. People have 20 and 22 years service here. HP has been a great employer and its a sad day for employees," he said.

Devastating for families

Workers arriving at the site declined to make any comment as they arrived at the plant this morning.

The factory makes ink jet cartridges and printers, and also carries out research and development.

Paschal Donohoe, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform told RTE Morning Ireland that the Government will respond to the workers once they have been informed of the company's decision this morning.

He also acknowledged the difficulty for workers and their families ahead of the announcement due to the uncertainty they are facing, saying "there are kids going to school under a shadow" ahead of the meeting.

"We will report and respond to workers once a decision is made," he said.

He said the Government have a "track record" in bringing multinational tech companies to Ireland and that the IDA will be there to provide support.

Catherine Murphy, Social Democrat TD for Kildare North, said rumours of the future viability of the plant had been circulating for some time.

"It will be pretty devastating for real people with mortgages," she said.

But if the plant is found to be no longer viable for HP Inc, she said it was incumbent on the IDA to "pull out all stops" to find a replacement industry for the area as soon as possible, she told the Irish Independent last night.

"I don't know what engagement there's been with the Department of Jobs and HP Inc," she said. "It's really important for the IDA to be strongly involved with the site.

"But it's a question of a replacement industry; all stops have to be pulled to find a replacement industry."

HP restructure

In 2015, Hewlett-Packard split into two companies, HP Inc and Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, in order to compete more effectively.

But HP Inc said last year that it expected to cut about 3,000 to 4,000 jobs over the next three years globally, as the maker of printers and personal computers continues to struggle with a subdued market.

HP chief executive Dion Weisler said at the time that the market continued to be volatile, facing pressures and uncertainties.

It is understood that HP Enterprise, which has more than 2,000 people employed in Ireland, is not affected.

Labour’s Jobs Spokesperson Alan Kelly has called on the Government to examine whether it can tap into the European Globalisation Fund for workers at Hewlett Packard.

“This is obviously a very anxious and stressful time for the workers at HP Inc. and their families, who are finding out this morning that their jobs are on the line. Along with the redundancies last year at Intel, this is the second jobs hit to the Leixlip area, and a huge blow for the north Kildare region," he said.

“We need to see real leadership from Government on this.

"Firstly, Minister Bruton needs to immediately explore whether Ireland can draw down on the European Globalisation Fund for these workers, for further education and up-skilling where required. Up to €23m was made available for Dell workers who lost their jobs in 2011, and the same steps are needed here.

Mr Kelly said that efforts must also be made by the IDA to source a replacement industry for the region to deal with the jobs vacuum that will be left.

“We’re entering into a time of major uncertainty with Brexit and the election of Donald Trump, and it is vital that Ireland is pitched as an attractive place to do business with a highly skilled workforce," he said.

"In the meantime, the Department of Social Protection should have a single point of contact to support those losing their jobs, to access job seekers benefit and other entitlements.”

Irish Independent

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