Wednesday 21 March 2018

Workers left shocked as make-up giant Coty to close Nenagh plant

Hundreds of jobs lost to factory in England over 'high costs' here

The news comes just months after the worldwide cosmetics giant completed a €11.5 billion takeover of Procter & Gamble, including the Co Tipperary site Photo: Getty
The news comes just months after the worldwide cosmetics giant completed a €11.5 billion takeover of Procter & Gamble, including the Co Tipperary site Photo: Getty

Anne Marie Walsh

Dozens of shocked and silent Coty workers passed through the turnstile outside the very plain exterior of the Max Factor make-up factory before one of them broke the silence.

"If you'd put that f***ing windmill in we wouldn't be here today," shouted John Flannery as he paced across the road to talk to Labour deputy Alan Kelly who was waiting outside, along with Michael Lowry.

When asked what he meant, he said planning permission had been sought a few years ago to erect a windmill similar to one at Johnson and Johnson to power the plant in Nenagh, Co Tipperary, which could have reduced its costs.

He said there was no mention of the possibility of the business being sold at yesterday's meeting with management to announce that the factory is closing down, and their jobs will go with it. They were just given the harsh facts. Production of the 'make-up of make-up artists' is shifting to Kent in the UK. The reason? Costs are too high.

As a result, Mr Flannery, who lives 7km away and has a daughter who is a teacher and a son still in education, will be out of work before 2018 ends. He does not know exactly when.

The only consolation is a redundancy package worth six weeks' pay per year of service, plus a statutory payment.

John Flannery Photo: Brian Gavin/Press 22
John Flannery Photo: Brian Gavin/Press 22

The downbeat workforce made their way home at lunchtime to deliver the news to their loved ones after a meeting with management where they were given confirmation of the closure that had already made its way into the morning newspapers. Minutes later, there wasn't a sinner at the Gortlandroe Industrial Estate in Nenagh. This is how it will soon look.

Mr Flannery (inset above) said: "210 direct jobs and I suppose four times that [in] indirect jobs are going to be affected by this."

Still keeping a sense of humour, he joked that he's never filled out a CV in his life. "We'll just have to make it work," he said. "Simple as that."

But these job losses are a major body blow to the employment market, among the largest since it last took a brutal kicking during the recession.

The same story was being played out across the water in Northumberland, near Newcastle-upon-Tyne where more than 400 jobs are in jeopardy.

Mr Kelly said: "Ultimately this is about Coty global restructuring and Nenagh has fallen victim to that in a competition with Ashford in Kent. In Newcastle, they are losing jobs as well from the factory, so it's not just [Nenagh]."

The only hope seems to rest on a white knight riding in with a big wad of cash to buy the plant. According to Mr Kelly, the chief executive of the IDA, Martin Shanahan, was hopeful that such a scenario might play out in a recent phonecall.

Mr Lowry was hoping that Minister for Jobs Mary Mitchell O'Connor, who is in the US, might pull off something similar.

Liam Sheehy, who has worked at Coty for 15 years, blamed management for failing to cut costs.

"I'm a little disappointed," said Mr Sheehy, who is the father of two children, an economist and an engineer.

"Incandescent with rage would be a good point. We reacted as we always do. We took it on the chin and said 'let's move on'.

"There's a diverse group of people. Some people have mortgages. Some people have young children, so they're obviously distraught."

Irish Independent

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