Less than a year after it was on the verge of closing its Waterford manufacturing base and shedding 1,100 employees, contact lens giant Bausch & Lomb has announced the creation of 125 new jobs in the city.
Employee acceptance of a cost-cutting deal, including pay cuts and almost 200 redundancies, last summer allowed Bausch & Lomb stay open in Waterford and Wednesday’s news of 125 positions over the coming years follows another boost last November when 50 new jobs were announced.
The total of 175 new posts will be in place by the end of 2017 following an investment of €75 million in new manufacturing capacity in Waterford, supported by IDA Ireland. Planning permission has already been secured for a new 112,000 sq ft building on a 17-acre site adjacent to the company's existing base in the Waterford Business Park.
The construction phase will see 150 jobs being created over the next two years.
Bausch & Lomb's Waterford general manager Damian Finn said the announcement was "a huge turnaround and a significant turnaround" for the 35-year-old plant and its workers. "It's our biggest investment in the history of Bausch & Lomb in Waterford."
Asked about the support given the company by IDA Ireland and the government, Mr Finn said the single biggest factor in the new investment was the cost cuts introduced last year.
“The prime reason we’re making this investment today is because of the cost structures we have now in place. We are grateful to the Government for their support on training and development which we will need in order to upskill our employees and upskill the new employees coming in. But the prime reason for this investment is down to the employees of this company.”
He confirmed there will be no restoration of cut wages to workers as a result of the turnaround. “The cost-saving measures put in place by the company have put us in a sound competitive position.”
Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton said the last year had seen "a very difficult journey for the workers here and the people of Waterford" and said a "huge amount of work" has gone into ensuring the plant's future and growth. "This is a great comeback for the company, for the workers, for Waterford."
He would not reveal the level of financial support provided by IDA Ireland to the company.
Last year Bausch & Lomb said it wanted to save €20 million in payroll costs to stay in Waterford and initially threatened 20per cent pay cuts. Following lengthy negotiations with unions, a deal was agreed and eventually passed by workers which included 7.5 per cent wage cuts, almost 200 job losses and other reductions in entitlements.
The company's vice-president for manufacturing, Angelo Conti, said the investment will enable the Waterford plant to meet the demand for the range of Biotrue ONEday contact lenses as well as new products.
“The decision to make this significant investment in Waterford was very much influenced by the positive attitude of management and employees,” Mr Conti said. “It is clear that the Waterford employees have responded positively to the challenge of improving competitiveness.”
Construction on the new manufacturing facility will start “pretty soon,” Mr Finn said, with recruitment of the first wave of 50 new permanent employees to begin in the first quarter of next year.