Dáil debates

Thursday, 8 February 2007

4:00 pm

Photo of Dan BoyleDan Boyle (Cork South Central, Green Party)
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I am grateful to have the opportunity to raise this issue on the Adjournment, though I am saddened by the fact that issues of this type are becoming more frequent in the Cork region and in the constituency that the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Deputy Martin, and I represent.

The Minister of State will be aware that Pfizer made an announcement today on employment at their facilities in Ireland. Some 65 jobs are to be lost at the end of the year in the company's facility in Ringaskiddy and attempts will be made to sell as going concerns the facilities at Loughbeg, also in my constituency, and at Little Island, in the Minister of State's constituency. It is indicated that if these sales do not go ahead the 400 or so remaining jobs will be lost as a result. Given Motorola's announcement last week, this is devastating economic news for the region and demands an appropriate and speedy response in the House. For this reason I am grateful that my request for an adjournment debate has been accepted and that the Minister of State will speak on behalf of the Government.

Perhaps the Minister of State will outline the Government's prior knowledge of these events. Workers within the company were nervous in recent months that a decision of this nature would be made. With this in mind perhaps the Minister of State will reveal to the House the extent to which State agencies were aware of these issues and were working in anticipation of such a decision. The Minister of State will be aware that there will be knock-on consequences for spin-off industries in the area.

The facility in Ringaskiddy, where the 65 jobs are to be lost, is likely to be a deserted industrial site because half of the plant was given to Archer Daniels Midland, ADM, which closed in recent years. There have been three announcements of major job losses in Ringaskiddy in recent years.

In his reply will the Minister of State point out alternative jobs that have been sourced, particularly in Amgen in his own constituency? Do announcements of the type made today, and that relating to Motorola last week, mean we should consider these replacement jobs rather than additional jobs in the Cork economy?

Will the Minister of State veer from his prepared statement to indicate the extent to which decisions of this type might be made by other companies? Are State agencies doing specific things to anticipate these decisions, as I mentioned regarding Motorola in an Adjournment debate last week, and try to see that they are not made in the first instance? There are fears, in light of today's announcement, that similar announcements will be made by other companies. Will the Minister of State state the specific things the Government can do in this regard?

I accept that this decision was made based on the internal workings of the company, the international climate surrounding pharmaceutical companies and the products produced by the company. Does the Minister of State accept that it behoves all public representatives in the area to work collectively towards addressing the concerns that have resulted from today's statement and put in place a proper economic environment where decisions like this will not be made?

5:00 pm

Photo of Michael AhernMichael Ahern (Minister of State, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Cork East, Fianna Fail)
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I thank the Deputy for raising this matter on the Adjournment. My colleague the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Deputy Martin, was in ongoing discussions with Pfizer prior to today's announcement. He met senior management at the company last Tuesday evening at its request and was fully briefed by the vice president on the company's future plans globally and in Ireland.

Following the rejection by America's Food and Drug Administration, FDA, of the company's latest cholesterol drug in December 2006, Pfizer is now implementing the outcome of a major review of production facilities worldwide. As part of this review 65 jobs are likely to be lost in the company's facilities in Ringaskiddy by the end of 2007. This is very disappointing news for the workers and their families but instead of predicting gloom and doom for Cork the workers are best served by the Government and IDA Ireland assisting Pfizer in every way possible to ensure that these 65 people get alternative employment. Pfizer understands its responsibilities in this area and it has assured the workers that every assistance will be given to them. FÁS has also been contacted to make direct contact with the workers so their needs can be met.

In addition to the 65 redundancies, the operation at Little Island, employing 180 workers, and the Loughbeg plant, employing 300 people, are to be put up for sale as going concerns over the next two years. The vice president of Pfizer pointed out that the company has successfully sold on such plants in the past. The Government's priority is to save these 480 jobs by supporting the company in its efforts to secure the sale of the plants.

I should point out that Pfizer is shedding 10,000 of its employees worldwide. However, the company's plants in Cork and Dún Laoghaire remain pivotal and Pfizer is heavily committed to Ireland, employing close to 2,300 people and accounting for a capital investment in excess of €1 billion.

The recent decision of the company to initiate a project for a new biological small scale facility in Cork, with the support of the Government, is significant and has potential. Pfizer continues to invest in its Irish facilities and is clear that Ireland remains a key manufacturing location. New technologies are changing the way drugs are being manufactured and €375 million has been invested in new technology very recently to secure the future of the company's Irish operations. Recent investments include sterile operations as well as new technology and two process development facilities. As I previously stated, the initiation of the project for a new biological small scale facility in Cork is also under way.

The Pfizer's manufacturing operations in Ireland have not been previously impacted by restructuring. The termination of the company's experimental cholesterol drug by the FDA in the USA is by far the most significant factor impacting future capacity demand in Ireland. The cumulative impact of these events has resulted in the in depth review of the company's operations in Ireland, as well as worldwide, which has concluded that the sale of the two plants as going concerns is required to bring capacity in line with future demand. The Irish plants will still be responsible for 33% of active pharmaceutical ingredient production for the global market after 2009. I understand that the company is confident that the steps that it is taking will better align its operations in Ireland with its future needs and strengthen its manufacturing base for future growth.

The traditional pharmaceutical sector is experiencing huge change worldwide. Ireland is the top location in Europe for life sciences projects and 13 of the top 15 pharmaceutical companies have operations here. They employ approximately 40,000 people, including 18,000 in the pharmaceutical sector.

Regarding investment in Cork generally, I assure the Deputy that the Government, through its agencies, is continuing to promote Cork for employment opportunities. New investment announcements in the region made over the last year include GlaxoSmithKline, Eli Lilly, Centocor and Amgen. Amgen recently announced 1,100 new jobs at its facility at Carrigtwohill, which is of particular importance, being a major global project that has chosen Cork as its development location.

The Eli Lilly project was announced as recently as last December and the Centocor facility is now built. Overall these companies will employ 1630 new people in the Cork region by 2010 and 2011. Enterprise Ireland is also actively involved in assisting its client companies to grow and expand their businesses in Cork. Last year, Enterprise Ireland made payments of almost €9 million to its client companies in County Cork. All these projects will have a significant positive effect on the economy and the people of the Cork region.