Seanad debates

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

7:00 pm

Photo of Dan BoyleDan Boyle (Green Party)
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I appreciate the opportunity to raise this issue on the Adjournment this evening. There is considerable interest in it and others wish to share time. I suggest Senators McCarthy and Cummins take one minute each and I will speak for three minutes.

The company concerned, Freescale Semiconductors Ireland Limited, is a company that has taken over an operation established by the Motorola Corporation in Cork Airport Business Park in recent years. It is a high-tech, high-spec. business that employs 47 people. It is exactly the type of business we should be seeking to have prosper in our new knowledge economy.

All the 47 employees are university graduates and 37% hold Masters degrees and a further 10% are of PhD standard. Not only are they largely Irish-based but they have attracted people of ability from other parts of the world, such as Silicon Valley, Hong Kong, France and the United Kingdom. It is a business whose employees have more than a dozen years' experience on average, yet the average age is only above 30 years old. On all these grounds, this is precisely the type of innovative business we should seek to have thrive in a new economy.

International global circumstances are not what they could and should be. As the company operates in the new technology area there are high levels of competition. I hope the response from the Minister of State this evening will indicate the role played by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment through various State agencies to ensure there is a future either in the existing business by way of purchase by another company or by using the existing skill set to establish a new company. We should make every effort possible in this regard.

Discussions at a local level with the IDA indicate the position is serious. It is making every effort, and appropriate political signals coming from the Department will help the process. It is not only an engine for providing employment in terms of research, development and innovation, and a number of patents have been put forward by the company, half of which are going towards new projects. The firm has been responsible for strong relationships in the research and development area with local universities and others involved in trying to advocate the information technology idea.

On all these grounds, I value the opportunity to speak this evening to express my concern as a local representative in the Cork area. I know that is shared by other Senators and I hope the Minister of State can give some cause for optimism that the ongoing situation can be rescued.

8:00 pm

Photo of Michael McCarthyMichael McCarthy (Labour)
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I thank Senator Boyle for the opportunity to speak on his matter on the Adjournment this evening. The Senator has raised a majority of the points, but I will revisit a few of them.

These are 47 high-skilled people, with nearly half having Masters degrees and 10% have PhDs. Many of these employees were working with pioneering IT firms abroad and returned to join this company in Cork. It was established in 1998 with just two employees as part of the now-closed Motorola facility based in Mahon. It attracted global talent, with six people from Silicon Valley alone. It was a key contributor to the 3GSM World Congress and it has a strong relationship with local universities and innovative centres. It was a leading provider for BlackBerry products.

In his election address the Taoiseach highlighted the importance of scientific research to Ireland's future prosperity and as the key driver of economic success. The world class graduates the Government refers to in the strategy for science, technology and innovation programme would look to companies like Freescale in Cork for their future employment.

We are asking for full support from the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland to keep these highly skilled and qualified design engineers in Ireland. This is a knowledge economy. We cannot allow this opportunity to be wasted by allowing those highly skilled workers to leave this country.

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)
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I join with my colleagues in speaking about this company, which is in grave difficulties. The other two Members have outlined the position and the calibre of jobs about which we speak. The Taoiseach spoke about those types of jobs on his election and the need for this country to have such jobs. It is essential that we do everything possible, and I call on the head of IDA Ireland in particular to find replacement jobs for these employees and to keep those jobs in Cork. This is not just a Cork issue; it is a national issue because of the type of jobs involved.

From a personal point of view, one of my relatives returned from the United States to work in Freescale. He was working in a highly technical job in the US and returned here with his three children to work in this company this time last year. As outlined, many other people are in a similar position in that they came back to Ireland to take up these positions. I ask the Minister of State to urge the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, and IDA Ireland in particular to make every effort possible to secure those people's jobs.

Photo of Barry AndrewsBarry Andrews (Minister of State with special responsibility for Children and Youth Affairs, Department of Health and Children; Dún Laoghaire, Fianna Fail)
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I thank the Senators for raising this matter on the Adjournment. I am taking this matter on behalf of the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

I would like to express my disappointment at the decision of the company to close its Cork operations and have asked the State development agencies under the auspices of the Tánaiste's Department to make every effort to assist the workers being made redundant in securing alternative employment.

Freescale established its Irish design centre in Cork in 1998. The Cork centre forms part of the radio products division of Freescale's wireless and mobile solutions group. Freescale is a large global company that regularly makes adjustments to resources as a normal course of operations to meet changing business requirements in a very dynamic industry. Freescale has decided to streamline its cellular design centres and, as part of this decision, is proposing that all programmes in its Cork design facility be transferred to other locations and the facility closed. The closure of the facility, expected in September 2008, will result in 47 employees losing their jobs.

I understand that Freescale is entering into a consultation process with its employees this week, where details of redundancy and options for employees will be outlined. I understand also that a number of employees may be offered opportunities to relocate to other global sites and the company intends to offer an enhanced redundancy package to impacted employees.

IDA Ireland is working closely with local Freescale management in Cork to help secure alternative employment for impacted staff. FÁS will be in contact with the management of Freescale this week and will make arrangements to register the employees. The full range of FÁS services will be made available to the employees, including top level agreement with the company on responsibilities and actions; intensive interviews, individually and-or in groups, with affected workers. These interviews will outline the range of supports and services available; there will be preparation of a skills analysis report by FÁS based on identified workers' needs and local opportunities; referral by FÁS of redundant workers to jobs, training courses or other options; establishment by FÁS of special or customised courses where necessary; and ongoing support and action to keep redundant workers in touch with the labour market.

In terms of foreign direct investment for Cork, IDA Ireland's strategy for the south west region and County Cork is to work with local authorities and relevant infrastructure and service providers to influence the delivery of appropriate infrastructure in the region; progress the development of a knowledge economy to ensure the region can compete both nationally and internationally for foreign direct investment; work with the existing IDA Ireland client base and to help them to further develop their presence; and provide modern property solutions with supporting infrastructure.

The recognition under the national spatial strategy of the importance of Cork as a major gateway location and Mallow as a hub will assist IDA Ireland in promoting the region for inward investment. It will also assist in the development of the critical mass needed in terms of population, skills and infrastructure.

IDA Ireland will continue to actively promote Cork and the advantages of locating in Cork, which include a young skilled population, with a student population of approximately 32,000, the presence of a university and institute of technology, and the availability of first class business parks, good infrastructure and an international airport.

Cork has a long industrial tradition and in recent years has grown into a strong gateway with a strong presence of international companies with significant operations located throughout Cork city and county. In particular, there has been a large concentration in both the pharmaceutical-medical technology sectors and in the information and communications technology sector. Recently, there has been a shift towards software, customer support and shared services activities, collectively known as globally traded business.

In the past ten years, direct employment in IDA supported companies in Cork city and county has grown from 13,838 in 1998 to 20,114 in 2007. The sectors contributing to this growth are ICT, pharmaceuticals-medical technologies and globally traded business. In the past three years, IDA Ireland has approved new projects for the Cork area with a job potential of over 3,100 people at full operation. There are currently 134 IDA supported enterprises in Cork city and county. Recent announcements of new overseas companies locating in Cork include Blizzard, SolarWinds and Apex. These projects will significantly add to the value and depth of the overseas industry in Cork. In addition to attracting new foreign direct investment, IDA Ireland continues to work closely with its existing clients in Cork to encourage the expansion of their operations. The success of this is demonstrated by the recent expansions of several companies in the county including Citco, VMware, Eli Lilly, Trend Micro, GlaxoSmithKline, PepsiCo and Sanmina SCI.

The importance of foreign direct investment employment in the south west is evidenced by the payroll cost of over €920 million in 2007 for the almost 22,000 permanent employees in the south west region, providing an average salary of approximately €42,000. In addition to supporting employment, the benefits of FDI in the region can be seen in their contribution to the local economy. In 2006, it is estimated that Irish materials and services purchased by FDI companies in the south west amounted to almost €1.5 billion.