Wednesday, 28 January 2015
As the Minister of State is aware, there was shock, disbelief and disappointment at the news last Thursday afternoon that the Carrickmacross plant of BOSE Corporation, one of the world's leading electrical engineering companies that has been based in Carrickmacross, County Monaghan for over 37 years, was to close with the loss of 140 full-time jobs and up to 80 seasonal jobs. The company informed the workforce by video-link in four minutes and 40 seconds that the plant was to cease operations in April this year and that it was transferring operations at the plant - final assembly of selected home theatre systems and radios for the European market - to Malaysia and Mexico. The workforce which has during the years changed its work practices and engaged in lean manufacturing techniques in order to provide for cost-effective production is devastated. This decision not only affects Carrickmacross but also surrounding towns, not only in County Monaghan but also in surrounding counties, including my county of Cavan.
I understand from my meeting with the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation yesterday that he has been in contact with senior management of BOSE Corporation. Did he ask it to reconsider the decision to close this state-of-the-art plant? Did he ask for an extension of time if the company is determined to go ahead with the closure? I understand Mr. Barry Weaver, director of human resources, is due to visit Ireland on Thursday and Friday of this week, weather permitting. It is vitally important that the Minister seek a meeting with him to outline face-to-face the devastation this decision will cause for 140 full-time and 80 seasonal workers.
Representatives of some State agencies were present at my meeting with the Minister yesterday. It is vitally important that they pursue other job opportunities, not only in Carrickmacross but also the north-east region. There is a window of opportunity, as pointed out by Deputy Brendan Smith at the meeting yesterday, to market the skills base available in the BOSE Corporation plant while it is still intact, in other words, before it closes. As the Minister of State is aware, we had a meeting yesterday evening with a delegation from Monaghan County Council which was attended by some of my Oireachtas colleagues, including the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and Deputies Brendan Smith and Seán Conlon who are most anxious that the plant be maintained. I know that this is not within the Minister's gift, but we are asking him to try to ensure the BOSE Corporation will its utmost to keep it open and that, if it is to close, it will make proper provision fo find alternative employment and offer the education and other supports that are vital for the workers at this time.
I thank the Senator for raising this issue. My thoughts are with the workers at BOSE and their families as they face into an extremely difficult time following the announcement of the pending closure of the plant in Carrickmacross, County Monaghan. The Minister hoped to be present for this debate after attending the meeting yesterday, but the Dáil schedule changed and he had to take a motion. He sends his apologies as he would have liked to be here. I will get him to contact Members if there are questions I cannot answer.
The sudden and unexpected nature of the announcement to transfer production to Malaysia and Mexico was very upsetting for the staff, many of whom have very long service with the company and shown considerable flexibility and adaptability in work practices during the years. Lean management practices, as referred to by the Senator, made the plant cost-effective. In addition, the decision to close so quickly, with final closure announced for April and activity and employment levels winding down before then, is a further blow for the loyal employees.
As soon as the announcement was made, the Minister arranged for his officials to contact SOLAS, the further education and training authority; the Department of Social Protection and the National Employment Rights Authority, NERA, to ensure the relevant State bodies could play their part in providing appropriate assistance for the employees. The Senator referred to education, training and promoting their skills. SOLAS, the main authority involved, is trying to organise and co-ordinate this activitiy. I can go through exactly what it can do, but it is so important that it try to keep the guys together as a unit.
The Minister spoke by telephone to a senior executive of BOSE Corporation in the United States last Monday night and is arranging a meeting with a senior executive from the United States who is travelling to Ireland later this week. This is probably the same person mentioned by the Senator. I cannot confirm who the Minister is meeting, but it is a senior executive. It will be a face-to-face meeting in which the Minister will put all of the issues we have discussed to the executive. The Minister has ensured an inter-agency group led by Enterprise Ireland has been formed. Its membership includes representatives of all the relevant State players, that is, IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland, the Department of Social Protection, SOLAS, the education and training board, the local enterprise office and Monaghan County Council. The group is providing for a co-ordinated approach to the needs of the affected staff and some of its members were present at the meeting yesterday attended by the Senator.
The Minister has asked both IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland to redouble their efforts to secure new projects for County Monaghan, explore all opportunities to replace the jobs being lost in Carrickmacross and find a replacement industry for the site. IDA Ireland will work through its overseas network to pursue potential investors. It has been particularly successful in attracting major employers to the north-east region in recent years and will seek to build on this success in highlighting the advantages of County Monaghan. Enterprise Ireland - its companies in the region have been very successful in recent years - will pursue all possibilities among its client companies to seek to identify a potential replacement for the town. I reassure the Senator that everything that can be done will be done in this case. He has touched on what the agencies could do. A major part of their work will be collating the details of staff skills and the capabilities of the facility. They will put in place an activation team from the Department of Social Protection and make a presentation to the affected staff on their entitlements and available job opportunities. The local Department office in Carrickmacross will assist the staff in processing their entitlements to make claiming jobseeker's allowance easier. I hope case workers will be provided to work with affected staff to make sure they are kept job-ready. The key is marketing their skills as a unit because it is an attractive site with attractive people working on it. There are, therefore, a lot of the ingredients needed to persuade another company to locate there. All of these efforts will be made, in addition to working with BOSE Corporation management, to see what can be done to extend the period involved because the Senator is right to say the longer we can keep the plant open, the better things will be.
The Minister will be having a meeting with a senior executive from BOSE Corporatin who is due, weather permitting, to travel here on Thursday. Will the Minister let us know how he gets on at that meeting? It is important that the facts, as I have outlined them, be emphasised in the strongest manner possible.
I am sure there will no difficulty with doing what the Senators suggests. As he knows, the Minister always tries to involve everybody on these occasions, certainly on a cross-party issue. That is why a delegation from the county council, with Oireachtas Members, attended a meeting yesterday. As it is important that we all work together on this issue, I will certainly pass on the Senator's request to the Minister who I am sure will keep the Senator informed about his meeting later this week.
It is important that IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland try to market the plant. Even though the past few years have been tough for the country, there have been many job created in the Monaghan area. Enterprise Ireland companies have increased the number of staff employed by them from 3,638 to 4,470. That is not to boast but to indicate that there are opportunities available. The past couple of years have been quite good in the area and the level of unemployment has come down from 17% to 11%, which is still far too high. I have no doubt, however, that we will able to find replacement work for the skilled workers involved. It is that on which we must focus our attention. It is important to know that although this is a tough time, there is still hope. It is an area in which people have been progressive and if we put the agencies together, I hope those affected will only be out of work for a short time.