Jobs are under threat at a leading multinational medical devices company after it revealed plans to move a major manufacturing wing to Thailand.
The 600-strong workforce at the Covidien plant in Athlone have been warned about possible cuts and talks on redundancy have begun.
The healthcare giant refused to give an indication on potential job losses, claiming it also planned to boost its R&D division at the site and bring in other product manufacturing.
Tanaiste and Foreign Affairs Minister Eamon Gilmore said he was concerned about the possible redundancies.
"I want to express my own concern about the announcement made by Covidien," he said. "It is too early for the company to state how many jobs will be impacted as they are also looking to bring in new products and technology to the site."
Rhonda Luniak, the vice-president of communications, respiratory and monitoring solutions at Covidien, said it will take two years to complete the manufacturing move.
"We discussed as part of a regular update to our employees, we let them know that we are assessing employee interest in a voluntary separation programme," she said.
"We have not been talking about any specific numbers because we are also planning to move additional products into the plant and we expect the R&D efforts that are there to bring in new products."
Siptu trade union later accepted assurances from Covidien that there will be no redundancies at the Athlone plant before next summer.
Organiser Frank Jones said the timeframe gave the union time to fully explore all possibilities for maintaining the maximum number of jobs at the facility.