Thursday, 17 December 2020
Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate
The Minister of State, Deputy Troy, will be aware that the announcement of any job losses in any part of the country is particularly devastating at this time of year. He will be aware that last Friday, the potential loss of 440 jobs at the Viatris plant in Baldoyle was announced. This was a devastating blow to the workers and their families at this time of year. The company is going to engage in the process over the next two years. I feel strongly that the Department, the Minister of State and the Tánaiste can play a positive role in reassuring the workers that their statutory entitlements will be forthcoming and that the Government will work with the company to ensure fair play and to offer new employment opportunities to those greatly affected by the announcement.
An announcement like this is no different from any other job loss announcement anywhere else in the country and it should be treated by the Government and Department in the exact same way. Four hundred and forty jobs involve 440 people and 440 families. I am sure the Minister of State will agree with me that the announcement could not have been made at a worse time, as we approach Christmas.
I have written to the Tánaiste to seek a meeting with him. I have also written to the company itself. There is an opportunity for us to step into this space and provide solutions, leadership and comfort to those affected. I am unsure whether the workers have a representative body or trade union representation. I have yet to find that out. If there is, we obviously want to engage with the trade union. If not, it is all the more important for political representatives to do what they absolutely can for the workers affected.
The Minister of State will agree with pretty much everything I am saying but I want to ensure that we start a process to help the workers over the next two years, maximise the potential of the site so the area will not lose out in the long term owing to the announcement, and ensure this is just a fork in the road for the 440 workers and their families, rather than a devastating blow from which they may never recover. With that, I would appreciate the Minister of State's response.
This is really devastating news for those working in Viatris and their families. It has been an exceptionally difficult year for everyone. The announcement will come as another blow, especially so close to Christmas, although I am assured that there are to be no immediate reductions and that the majority of the workforce will continue to be employed until late 2022.
This is at least some small comfort on a dark day for the employees.
I understand that this development is not related to Covid-19 but instead relates to a global restructuring of the company. Neither the Government nor IDA Ireland had advance notice of the decision. However, Viatris has stated that it remains fully committed to Ireland and even after the announcement, the company will continue to employ more than 1,400 people in Galway, Dublin and Cork. The Government will make all necessary State assistance available to the workers and we will work across Government to help all the workers to find new jobs and education and training opportunities when the redundancies are made. I understand that the company will be offering its staff enhanced redundancy and have committed to working with IDA Ireland to find an alternative for the site. IDA Ireland is in close and regular contact with the company and will work with it to market the site to other investors.
I am aware of how challenging a time this is for workers and how worried many people are about their futures and the uncertainties that exist. However, as difficult as it is to appreciate now, Ireland is in a strong position to recover and we will continue to work to attract new investment and opportunities. It is obviously difficult to speak about positives at a time when workers have just discovered that they are to lose their jobs. However, the pharmaceutical sector is continuing to grow and expand, and we have good reason to be confident that those affected will find employment opportunities with other companies in the sector.
While there are many challenges facing us in the current climate and global competition for foreign direct investment, FDI, is intensifying, the IDA Ireland's results for the last six months of the year demonstrate the resilience of our foreign direct investment base. The agency has secured over 130 investments to date in 2020, with the potential to create almost 10,000 jobs. Fifty-three of those investments are from companies that are investing in Ireland for the first time. Full figures for the year will be available early next month, but the evidence would suggest that overseas companies continue to value our FDI strengths, including our talented and flexible workforce, a track record as a successful home to global business and a hard-won reputation as a pro-enterprise jurisdiction. Our continued commitment to the European Union, the Single Market and the eurozone, as well as to free trade and multilateralism among other key selling points, help us to convince multinational companies to establish operations and create jobs here. We will continue to work to attract new investments and opportunities in the period ahead and I assure Deputy Ó Ríordáin that I will relay the points that he has raised to my colleague, the Tánaiste, who is the senior Minister.
I would appreciate a copy of the response, if that is possible. I appreciate the Minister of State's reply. I do not in any way think that this situation is a reflection on his Department or the Government. It is particularly bad form for the company not to have communicated this decision to IDA Ireland or the Department before making it. Of course, the timing is also bad form. On that basis, we have got off to a bad start to our relationship with the entity in question.
I appeal again to the Minister of State that this is something on which we can work together. Perhaps when we reconvene in the new year, seeing that this is going to be a two-year process, all local elected representatives can meet with the Minister of State and the Tánaiste to build up a continuum of a relationship over a period of time to ensure that we can do our best for these families and to lay down a template. If this happens again, we want to be sure that we have a template in place to which we can refer.
The Minister of State mentioned retraining and education, and I appreciate that. I would hope that the Minister of State takes my call to work together in good faith. Perhaps in the new year, we can set up a meeting between all the local Deputies, officials from the Department and officials from the Department of Social Protection who will be heavily engaged in this matter. That would ensure that everything is being done, any communications that we are getting from the workers or their families can also be relayed to the Minister of State's Department, anything that may have been missed, and also to ensure that, in the fullness of time, this is seen to be a fork in the road and not a full stop for any family. I appreciate the engagement of the Minister of State and hope it will continue.
I thank the Deputy for raising the issue. I share his concern about the impact of the announcement on the staff and the local community. I also share his concern about the manner in which the announcement was made.
I confirm that IDA Ireland is already seeking a buyer for the company's site and I am optimistic, given its location, infrastructure and connectivity, that it will prove appealing to companies looking to locate or expand here. I have asked IDA Ireland to keep me regularly updated on its progress in finding a new buyer.
We are going through a period of unprecedented uncertainty. Ireland's economy is outward-facing, export-orientated and reliant to a large degree on global FDI. This means that when a multinational company makes decisions about its operations, we can, unfortunately, feel the impact. IDA Ireland had another year of strong growth in 2019, with record levels of employment and investment. As difficult as it may be to appreciate now, we have reason to be confident that even in the current climate, new employment opportunities can be found.
I reiterate that IDA Ireland is committed to this site. It has already embarked on marketing it to find an alternative. I am happy to talk to the Tánaiste about a coming together between him, me and all the local representatives from that particular constituency to look at how we can work together in the new year to seek alternatives for the affected employees. I reiterate that our thoughts are very much with the employees. It is an awful thing to hear at any time, but particularly in the weeks leading up to Christmas.
With the forbearance of the Leas-Cheann Comhairle who I hope will not get too annoyed, the festive period is my favourite time of year and I wish my colleagues in government and in opposition and all the staff a very happy Christmas. I hope people get an opportunity to spend some quality time with their loved ones over the coming days.