Tullamore’s Medtronic workforce must be nervous about their medium-term prospects

Pharma and medtech world going through a time of fairly radical reorganisation

Medtronic worker: Cardinal Health is acquiring the medical supplies business of healthcare giant Medtronic.   Photograph: Munshi Ahmed/Bloomberg

Medtronic worker: Cardinal Health is acquiring the medical supplies business of healthcare giant Medtronic. Photograph: Munshi Ahmed/Bloomberg

 

The news that Cardinal Health is acquiring the medical supplies business of healthcare giant Medtronic was fairly well flagged within the industry.

But, for workers at the company’s Tullamore plant, it simply opens the door to another period of uncertainty just as workers there are adjusting to the latest “right-sizing” of the business.

Medtronic was keen to stress yesterday that it remains a major employer in Ireland. That’s true, and encouraging, but it is now of little relevance to the Tullamore workforce who are adjusting to their third owner in the past decade.

What matters now for them is the commitment of Cardinal Health to their new Irish workforce. The Tullamore site dates back to the early 1980s and a series of leading names in medical devices and supplies have been nailed above its door in that time.

In terms of job numbers, as many as 600 people were employed there back in the days when it was owned by Sherwood Medical. But that’s ancient history and those numbers are now down below 400.

The company, which essentially supplies other group entities, lost a contract with one of those last year. It was substantial enough to be cited by directors in their annual report as a reason for lower sales figures and profits, and led to a substantial cull among the workforce in an exercise that the company reported cost €800 million.

That’s not the sort of backdrop any plant wants when they’re welcoming a new owner.

The Medtronic acquisition gives Cardinal Health 17 new facilities across a number of countries but Tullamore will be the only plant in Ireland.

Cardinal Health may be headquartered in Dublin (Ohio, that is) but they are one of the few major players in the pharma and medtech world with no substantial presence in Ireland. Back in 2000, the company announced ambitious plans for a 1,300-person $115 million greenfield investment in Longford but, after a series of delays, the project was quietly pulled in early 2004.

At a time of fairly radical reorganisation in the sector, there has to be some concern among the Tullamore workforce about the medium-term prospects for their jobs.

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