Sunday 21 January 2018

Repeated lobbying of firm after merger was to no avail

Fionnan Sheahan, Ralph Riegel and Fiach Kelly in Madrid

GOVERNMENT lobbying failed to persuade Pfizer to ring-fence its 5,000 workers in Ireland from job losses.

Half of the plants the multinational company is closing, following a merger with Wyeth, are in this country.

The Opposition has questioned the Government's efforts and claimed that other European governments were more effective -- because they escaped factory closures.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen said the loss of almost 800 jobs at Pfizer plants across the country was due to the company's restructuring plans, rather than to a loss of competitiveness in this country.

Speaking at the EU-Latin America and Caribbean summit in Madrid yesterday, he said: "What this is about is the amalgamation of two major companies in that sector.

"Pfizer and Wyeth are global operations and they're looking at their own global manufacturing facilities now -- as they say in their own statement -- and how they can proceed better long term with the organisation of their manufacturing facilities."

Tanaiste Mary Coughlan said the job losses had "nothing to do with the Irish economy" and were a result of the over-capacity in the company following the merger.

The job losses arose from a global-restructuring programme triggered by Pfizer's $65bn (€55bn) merger with rivals Wyeth last October.

Mr Cowen, IDA chief executive Barry O'Leary, Ms Coughlan and Finance Minister Brian Lenihan all met with Pfizer chiefs over recent months.

But Labour TD Ciaran Lynch said the Pfizer plants in France and Italy had emerged from the "whole bloodbath" virtually unscathed.

He asked: "So how is it that Ireland sustained 16pc of the global job losses and now faces the disaster of losing three entire plants?"

Pfizer's Ireland vice-president, Dr Paul Duffy, said: "Brian Cowen has been in to see our CEO; Mary Coughlan met our head of manufacturing; Brian Lenihan has met our head of finance and Barry O'Leary has met our people in New York on multiple occasions over the last six months."

Dr Duffy added: "In reality, there is not a lot that a local government can do to influence a decision like this."

Irish Independent

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