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Friday 20 April 2018

Minister: I worked hard to halt HP cuts

Firm to repay €4m in grants after 500 jobs axed at Leixlip

Mary Mitchell O’ Connor said she worked to save the jobs Picture: Tom Burke
Mary Mitchell O’ Connor said she worked to save the jobs Picture: Tom Burke

Luke Byrne and Conor Feehan

Enterprise Minister Mary Mitchell O'Connor has insisted the Government and IDA worked "long and hard" to try to persuade HP not to cut jobs in Leixlip.

She revealed the tech company would have to pay back €3.9m of the €62.3m the company has received in grants since it arrived here, after it announced 500 job losses.

"We fought long and hard to ensure Leixlip wasn't in (HP's restructuring plan)," she said yesterday.

Some of the workers who are going to lose their jobs at the HP Inc plant have been employed at the company for more than 20 years, the general manager told the Irish Independent.

News that up to 500 jobs would be lost at the HP Inc plant left workers "disappointed and saddened", according to Maurice O'Connell.

Speaking outside the massive HP facility, he said it was a "sad day" for employees.

"Our 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," he said.

Mr O'Connell said the decision on the job losses was really driven by the HP global print strategy to drive operation efficiencies and cost savings so it could re-invest those savings back into growth opportunity for the print business.

"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," he said.

"As a result of that decision, we have decided to exit all of the print activities from the Leixlip site here. Up to 500 people will be impacted by this.

Maurice O’Connell, General Manager of Hewlett Packard, arriving at the plant in Leixlip
yesterday Picture: Kyran O'Brien
Maurice O’Connell, General Manager of Hewlett Packard, arriving at the plant in Leixlip yesterday Picture: Kyran O'Brien

"It is an unfortunate decision for the employees, but this in no means is an adverse reflection on the contribution of this site which has been in operation since 1995."

Mr O'Connell also stressed that only part of the HP business was closing.

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

Some of the workers affected by the redundancies may be able to be redeployed elsewhere within the organisation, but Mr O'Connell conceded that some skills were not transferable.

He did promise, however, that those facing redundancy would receive an "enhanced severance package".

Meanwhile, Kildare North Fianna Fáil TD and technology spokesperson James Lawless said the news of the job losses was devastating for the 500 workers, their families and the community.

"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.

"My heart goes out to the workers here today. It's never easy to get news like this," he said.

"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."

Alan Shine, CEO of North Kildare Chamber, highlighted the absence of a Cabinet minister from the area.

"We haven't got a senior minister at the Cabinet table for the past 12 years, since Charlie McCreevy left.

"That's a huge deficit in our minds, that we've only got local TDs, nobody at Cabinet table shouting for Kildare," he said.

Irish Independent

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