Baxter Healthcare in Castlebar to let 110 employees go

Job losses come just one week after 150 jobs announced for county town at IT centre

A Co Mayo town which last week celebrated the announcement of a project that is promised to deliver 150 new jobs received the grim news yesterday that an existing employer is to shed 110 workers early next year.

American firm Baxter Healthcare, one of the cornerstones of the employment sector in Castlebar, aims to prune its workforce by means of voluntary redundancies. The company employs almost 1,000 people at plants in Castlebar and Swinford. It is understood that only the Castlebar plant will be affected by the latest jobs cull.

Management met workers yesterday to outline their redundancy proposals for 110 of the 180 personnel employed on weekend production line shifts at the Castlebar facility.

The timeframe for the redundancy programme to be implemented is next March, a very short period according to Frank Jones, Siptu's industrial organiser for the pharmaceutical and medical devices sector. "It's shocking news and the timeframe is short but if we can restrict this to a voluntary redundancy programme it would be a good day's work," Mr Jones said. "However, with such large numbers affected that might be very difficult."

Autumn so far has been a rollercoaster time on the industrial front in Castlebar. Last week Northgate, a British-based private company announced plans for an information technology centre in Castlebar employing 150. That news was widely welcomed but yesterday’s announcement of 110 imminent job losses in the Mayo county town means the elation has been short-lived.

"This is a very serious blow", Michael Kilcoyne, a councillor and former Mayor of Castlebar, said last evening. "It wipes out last week's good news."

Baxter, formerly Travenol, manufactures kidney dialysis products. The company has been in Mayo for more than 40 years and once had a plant in Belmullet as well as Castlebar and Swinford.

Mr Kilcoyne said the jobs vista in Mayo was particularly bleak at the moment given the recent decision of Homecare Medical Supplies to lay off 80 workers at its facilities in Kiltimagh and Ballyhaunis. Calling on Taoiseach Enda Kenny to make Co Mayo his priority for job creation, Mr Kilcoyne added that this autumn alone, more than 200 jobs had been lost in the region.

Baxter has been a shining light in the employment firmament of Co Mayo for four decades. Last year, Mr Kenny attended 40th anniversary celebrations at the Castlebar plant. While there he gave a firm commitment to company executives, including the company's chief executive and chairman Robert L Parkinson jnr, that there would be no change in the 12.5 per cent rate of corporation tax charged to foreign companies in Ireland.

The company suffered a setback in January 2011 because of the contamination of a number of kidney dialysis products at its Castlebar facility. As a result, a production line was closed for a number of months and 150 production workers were temporarily let go.