MSD closure has an impact on ‘whole Swords area, the wider community’

‘Your age and everything else is against you in today’s world trying to find another job’

Unite trade union has pledged to immediately engage with MSD management and proactively help the IDA to find a buyer for the facility. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Unite trade union has pledged to immediately engage with MSD management and proactively help the IDA to find a buyer for the facility. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

 

The Christmas tree was up in the MSD pharmaceutical plant in Swords yesterday but there was little cheer among staff who were told that it is to close by the end of 2017 with 570 job losses.

Most people leaving the plant kept their car windows up and their eyes averted from the small media presence at the gates. However, some stopped to share the sense of disbelief and disappointment they and their co-workers felt following the announcement.

“It’s a shock for people in the whole factory,” said Patricia Rogers (48) who has worked there for 13 years. “We knew there was trouble but we didn’t know it was to this extent. It’s 570 jobs gone. It has an impact on the whole Swords area, the wider community.

“Tonight is takeaway night and all the takeaways: chippers, Chinese, get their bit out of it, the pubs. It’s total devastation for the whole area.”

Michelle Lujan (46) said she was feeling “worried, yeah, very concerned”.

“Your age and everything else is against you in today’s world trying to find another job . . . By the time the place goes [I’ll be] 50 nearly and then trying to find a job when everybody’s looking for a job as well.”

John Cronin works in the plant’s “steriles department”, which, it was announced yesterday will be the first department to be affected by the job losses in mid-2014.

He said he and his colleagues were hoping they would be redeployed. “It’s just restructuring within the company itself, it’s nothing to do with the plant.”

“It was a big shock to everyone,” he said, adding that “it’s a lovely place to work”.

Margaret Rodgers, who has worked at the plant for eight years, said she had “had a suspicion that something was going to happen but we didn’t think total closure. It’s just very sad,” she said. “It’s become a family in there, it’s more the people.”

Unite trade union, which represents more than 360 workers in the facility, has pledged to immediately engage with management and proactively help the IDA to find a buyer for the facility in an attempt to preserve some or all of the highly-skilled jobs.

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton said his first thoughts were with the workers and their families. However, he said the announcement “in no way reflects the quality of operations or the workforce in Ireland, but relates to a consolidation the company is engaged in globally to deal with excess capacity”.

He said the company and IDA would “work aggressively to market this site, which has a number of factors which make it attractive for potential purchasers as a going concern – including a strongly committed workforce, significant global demand for its technologies and a long lead-in time of over four years until the site is scheduled to be wound down”.

In a statement, IDA Ireland chief executive Barry O’Leary said the extended lead-in time of 2017 would facilitate the IDA greatly in finding a buyer.

He added that the organisation had “a good track record” in finding buyers for pharmaceutical sites, having previously facilitated purchases of major sites like MSD in Swords from global pharma companies such as Pfizer and Wyeth.