Job losses in Waterford

 

THE CLOSURE of the Talk Talk plant in Waterford, involving the loss of nearly 600 jobs, represents a traumatic development for its employees and a serious economic blow to the region. The manner in which the announcement was made and the extremely short notice given to staff and to the Government reflects badly on the British-owned company. The imminent departure of the company emphasises the precarious nature of foreign industrial investment and the urgent need for the Industrial Development Authority to promote a more robust indigenous sector.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has criticised the company for failing to provide Government agencies with the time needed to seek alternative enterprises. With the planned closure date less than a month away, the prospects facing workers are grim. What makes the situation even more distressing is that, while acknowledging the “huge dedication and care” shown by its employees in serving customers, the company should show such little respect to them.

In opposition and now in power, Government parties identified the creation of jobs and a reduction in unemployment as their primary objectives. The situation is, however, still deteriorating. The latest figures from the Live Register show that some 14.4 per cent of the entire workforce is receiving State assistance, 40 per cent of those for longer than a year.

Such figures offer no comfort to those directly and indirectly affected by the planned closure of the Waterford plant. But they do indicate the extent of the challenge facing the Government and ultimately, every citizen.

This jobs crisis represents a test for society as a whole and in the absence of common cause and a broad sense of purpose, the risk of failure and further recession grows. There are some positive signs. Exports by multinational companies are still growing and the agricultural, food and drinks sectors are doing well.

But large sections of the domestic economy are barely surviving. Jobs are being shed, rather than created. Backs are to the wall.

The Government has no silver bullet to end the curse of unemployment. It can take initiatives; improve competitiveness; remove red tape; encourage innovation by domestic companies and assist their expansion into foreign markets. But the process will be painfully slow.

Minister for Jobs and Enterprise Richard Bruton has spoken of increasing the amount of business the State awards to Irish companies. Separately, more than 6,000 new jobs were posited if households spent an additional €4 a week on Irish products.

Supporting local and national enterprise in services, manufacturing, retail or food, can help to stave off further job losses and turn the unemployment tide. The Government and its development agencies can only do so much: citizens must do the rest.