Pfizer cuts 150 jobs at Newbridge with closure of packaging plant

Pharma giant blames falling sales and competition but holds out hope for the future

David O’Reilly, President of Newbridge Chamber of Commerce, speaking to media outside the Pfizer plant in the town earlier. Photograph: Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland

Pharmaceutical firm Pfizer is cutting a further 150 jobs at its plant in Newbridge, Co Kildare. Staff were informed of the redundancies – amounting to more than one in five of the staff at the plant – at a meeting early yesterday.

The company said it was closing the site’s packaging plant. The first redundancies are likely by the end of the first quarter of next year, with the unit expected to shut down entirely in 2015.

Newbridge has only recently completed a redundancy programme announced in 2010 that saw 275 workers lose their jobs, and yesterday’s announcement follows news of 570 job losses with the closure of MSD’s women’s health site in Swords last week and Baxter cutting 110 jobs at its kidney dialysis product plant in Castlebar.

The job losses come despite the plant securing the manufacturing of one of the company latest specialist drugs, women’s health product Duavee, following its approval by the FDA in October.


Pfizer blamed patent expiry and increased competition from generics for a fall in manufacturing volumes within the wider group “and an excess of manufacturing capacity globally, and in Ireland”.

However, it has emerged that Newbridge is likely to benefit from cuts elsewhere in the Pfizer network. The group last month announced the closure of a site in Puerto Rico. A spokeswoman for the company in Latin America said both Pfizer’s active ingredient site in Ringaskiddy, Co Cork and the Newbridge plant would benefit from the transfer of manufacturing of 13 Pfizer products as a result.

That additional work is not likely to arrive until 2015 at the earliest and is unlikely to lead to significant increased employment. The company would not comment beyond its statement that it would continue to invest in “specialised product technologies and will transfer production of some such products into Newbridge over the next few years”.

Pfizer vice-president and country head, Paul Duffy stressed that Ireland can be competitive in drug manufacture but only if it targets the right sort of work – essentially more technically challenging – though he stressed it could not be “at any cost”, with competitiveness a key focus now and for the future.

When we do the right things and adjust the cost structure, we are happy to invest,” he said, pointing to recent investment in Pfizer plants at Grange castle outside Dublin and in Ringaskiddy, as well as Ireland’s success in securing manufacturing of new Pfizer products. Four of the company’s latest drugs are manufactured for global supply in Ireland, including Duavee at Newbridge.

Pfizer’s solid dose pharmaceuticals manufacturing facility – one of just four in Pfizer’s global supply network – produces three billion tablets and capsules annually. It is one of the largest employers in Newbridge and has been open since 1992.

Willie Quigley, an official from the union Unite, said: “Today’s announcement is both unwelcome and unexpected, and has come as a blow to workers”.

Fianna Fáil jobs spokesman Dara Calleary said the job losses raised serious questions about the challenges facing healthcare manufacturers in Ireland.

“My fear is that there is evidence of an emerging crisis in the healthcare manufacturing sector in Ireland,” he said, calling for swift Government action.

Sinn Féin’s Jonathan O’Brien said the Government response to known issues in the sector “to date ...has been high on promises and low on delivery”.

Dominic Coyle

Dominic Coyle

Dominic Coyle is Deputy Business Editor of The Irish Times

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy is Economics Correspondent of The Irish Times