Monday 20 November 2017

Towns left reeling as 250 jobs are axed

Ailish O'Hora and Tom Shiel

ANOTHER 250 jobs were lost yesterday.

Baxters Healthcare in Castlebar, Co Mayo, is axing 200 staff while 50 jobs are going at C&C, the makers of Bulmers cider, in Clonmel, Co Tipperary.

But energy firm Airtricity is creating 105 customer service jobs in Dublin as it looks to increase its market share.

The Airtricity announcement brings the total number of jobs created by the company to 500 since it entered the domestic energy market in 2009.

Meanwhile, Baxter, the biggest employer in Castlebar, will seek 150 voluntary redundancies next year from its 1,100-strong workforce and it will not be renewing a further 50 temporary contracts.

"While decisions like this are difficult to take, this is a necessary step to secure the long-term viability of the operation," said Pat Gallagher, general manager at the plant.

But local politicians said the news was a blow to the town and called on the firm to be generous with its redundancy payments.

Castlebar mayor Ger Deere said the losses came as many multinationals in the area complained about the quality of the road infrastructure and transportation costs.

He said these challenges "add significantly to their operational costs".

In Tipperary, C&C announced 50 redundancies as part of a cost-cutting programme aimed at protecting the remaining 220 jobs at the plant.

The company said management would start talks with unions immediately and lay-offs would be voluntary "where possible".

Bulmers general manager Paul O'Sullivan said the decision was taken in light of weaker consumer sentiment and a shift in cider sales from pubs to off-licences.

"It is therefore an imperative that we reduce our fixed-cost base in Clonmel, thereby ensuring that our products are produced at the lowest cost, while maintaining both quality and excellent customer service," he said.

But local Labour senator Phil Prendergast said C&C staff were being sacrificed while new management at the company had secured a €21m pay and shares deal.

Vulnerable

"The lives of 50 people and their families have been thrown into chaos while the company's three top executives receive enough money to pay all these workers and still have millions left over for themselves," he added.

Meanwhile, Airtricity boss Stephen Wheeler said electricity or gas customers who could afford to pay their bills but were refusing to do so should be forced to cough up before a ban on disconnections is introduced.

Mr Wheeler said that while the company was committed to helping vulnerable customers in financial difficulties, those who were "debt-hopping" had to be stopped.

The disconnection policy being considered by the energy watchdog could involve suppliers being banned from cutting off customers who fail to pay their bills.

Up to 2,500 Irish households have their gas or electricity supplies cut off every month.

Irish Independent

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