UNIONS this morning called for Government support to save as many jobs in Pfizer as possible.
As shocked workers returned to work today. efforts began to secure some of the 510 jobs which remain in jeopardy.
The pharmaceutical multi-national announced yesterday that 275 jobs are to be cut at its Newbridge facility, in Co Kildare.
A further 510 jobs are under threat at the company's plant in Dun Laoghaire and its two sites in Ringaskiddy in Cork.
Government lobbying failed to persuade the US company to ring-fence its 5,000 workers in Ireland from job losses.
Half of the plants the multi-national company is closing -- after a merger with Wyeth -- are in this country. The opposition said other European countries had been more effective in their representations and questioned the Government's efforts.
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 a loss of competitiveness.
He denied that because three of the six Pfizer plants which shut down worldwide closed in Ireland meant his Government had let Ireland become uncompetitive for high end jobs.
"Our competitiveness gains are being recognised," he said at the EU-Latin America and Caribbean summit in Madrid yesterday. But the opposition challenged the Government on how Italy and France -- whose Governments also repeatedly lobbied Pfizer -- managed to avoid the worst of the 6,000 job losses globally and escaped with no plant closures.
Labour's Ciaran Lynch said the Pfizer plants in France and Italy emerged from the "whole bloodbath" virtually unscathed.
"So how is it that Ireland sustained 16pc of the global job losses and now faces the disaster of losing three entire plants," he asked.
Pfizer's Ireland vice-president Dr Paul Duffy said he could not comment on the suggestion France had lobbied successfully. "I am not aware of that," he said.
Pfizer workers in Dun Laoghaire were last night pinning their job hopes on a buyer being found for the plant.
The pharmaceuticals giant employs 210 people at the site, some of whom have worked there for upwards of 30 years.
"There were people very upset. There's people who have been there up to 30, 40 years," said employee Paul O'Brien.
Shellshocked workers poured from the Newbridge, Co Kildare manufacturing hub as the shift came to a close at 4pm.
Some were pleased the plant, a key employer in the area, still had a future with 770 jobs while others were shocked and disappointed at the sheer numbers as they contemplated the cutbacks.