Shock as County Wexford medical manufacturing plant lays off 26 workers

Furious workers claim they were treated badly by how the redundancies were handled by the company

The BD Enniscorthy plant.

Brendan KeaneEnniscorthy Guardian

There has been shock and anger expressed in County Wexford following the laying off of workers at the Becton Dickinson (BD) plant in Enniscorthy.

Workers expressed dismay and anger, not just at being laid off without any prior notice, but also at the alleged manner with which they say they were dealt with by management at the plant.

The lay offs occurred on Thursday, March 23, and speaking to the Enniscorthy Guardian, some of those who were laid off claim they were told on Wednesday that business was slow but there would be no layoffs and that instead training opportunities might arise.

However, the following day, 26 people were laid off having been called into the office individually and informed of the news.

A spokesperson for the company confirmed that 26 people had been laid off “temporarily” but said the characterisation about the manner with which the employees were informed about the decision was “inaccurate”.

One employee who spoke about the situation described it as “a disgrace” and claimed it was a “classic tactic” because it happened during the last hour of business during the week.

"We don’t work on a Friday and you’d have heard the horror stories before of people getting ‘that call’ on a Friday but we more or less got that call yesterday,” he said.

"I was there a relatively short time but there were people there a lot longer than me who were let go as well,” he said.

"I was also humiliated by the manner it was done and that’s what doesn’t sit well with me,” he added.

"We were told on Wednesday that things will be quiet around here but it gives us an opportunity to do a lot of training and there will be no jobs lost,” he said.

"That was said to us by management and then yesterday, just before home time we were let go and it was done in a pretty savage manner because we were asked to hand in our badge, clear out the locker and leave the premises without any fuss,” he added.

"We were told to not enter the clean room or the medical device area so it was cold and savage the way it was done.”

Another worker said there was a lot of upset at the time and that people were angry with some female employees “in floods of tears”.

"We were asked to hand over the keycard, which gives you access to clean rooms  and all the facilities, so basically we were told to hand over the keycard, clean out the locker and leave, and that’s the way it was done,” he said.

When asked if they were given a reason for the layoffs, he said they were told there was no work.

"We were told there’s no work and that things have slowed down,” he said.

"But the day before we were told it was slow but that there would be an opportunity to train people and that there would be no jobs lost – and then the following day there were jobs lost,” he added.

The workers claim it was the manner with which the layoffs occurred was what angered people while the prospect of being without work was upsetting enough.

"I was more in shock at the news but there were a lot of people really upset there,” said one of the workers.

Some, if not all of those affected have mortgages and families and that’s something that has caused a lot of concern for those laid off.

Some of workers said they had experienced issues in work places before but “never the coldness of how it was done there”.

All of the people who were laid off worked on the production floor and that was a point highlighted by the workers.

"We are in a cost of living crisis and to lose your job now is just a disaster for a lot of people,” he added.

"It’s despicable the way it was done and just wasn’t fair, people shouldn’t be as disposable as the way they were treated yesterday.”

The workers who spoke to the Enniscorthy Guardian expressed concern for the mental wellbeing of some of those laid off because of family circumstances and the cost of living at the moment.

"That would be a concern for some of them because a lot of people are struggling out there at the moment,” said one of them.

When contacted about the matter a spokesperson for the company confirmed that 26 people were laid off but said they were laid off temporarily to “right-size its manufacturing operations with today’s realities”.

The spokesperson also said the characterisation about the manner with which the employees were informed about the decision was “inaccurate”.

"I I can assure you that we are committed to treating each person affected by this decision with compassion and respect,” said the spokesperson

“While these types of decisions are the hardest ones to make as company leaders, we understand that it is even more difficult for affected employees to hear and process,” he added.

“That is why we offered paid leave for the entire duration of the notification period instead of requiring them to return to work.”

The spokesperson highlighted that “BD has been an active member of the Enniscorthy community for more than 25 years” and commented: “We are dedicated to the success of our employees and community. Since 1996, BD has consistently invested and expanded our presence in Enniscorthy to more than 490 employees today.”

The spokesperson said that over the last five years alone the company has increased employment in Enniscorthy “by 40 positions”.

“So over the past five years, including this week's action, we still have a net increase of 20 positions,” said the spokesperson.

“In addition to Enniscorthy, BD has maintained a manufacturing facility in Drogheda since 1964 and a global research and development centre of excellence in Limerick in 2017,” he added.

He stated that more recently BD has set up a new research and development site based in Blackrock and that all together the company employs more than 1,200 people across the four facilities.

“BD remains committed to growing in Ireland and intends to continue investing in Enniscorthy and across the country,” he said.

“This difficult strategic decision is not a reflection on the performance of the site,” he added.

“The site has met our operational expectations, but other business factors drove these actions.”