Bausch & Lomb threaten pull out
The State is preparing a massive financial package to persuade a US contact lens giant not to pull out of Ireland.
Bausch & Lomb has announced it is axing 200 staff and slashing wages by 20% at its Waterford plant, the biggest employer in the region.
It has also warned workers that it may shut down the entire operation - which employs 1,100 people - if it can not dramatically cut its costs immediately.
The company claims staff at its headquarters in Rochester, New York, are paid nearly a third less than Irish counterparts.
Jobs Minister Richard Bruton revealed he, his officials and the State investment agency IDA have been in crisis talks with the multinational for months in an attempt to save jobs.
Furthermore, he said a plan has been drawn up - involving huge taxpayer supports - to keep Bausch & Lomb from a complete pull out.
"I along with my Department and IDA have been engaging with Bausch & Lomb for several months on these issues, in an effort to secure as many jobs as possible for Waterford," he said.
"The Department and IDA have proposals ready for substantial financial support for a major investment in the plant by the company, in order to secure its future and position it for expansion, in the event that restructuring is successful."
Mr Bruton said the company has stated its preference for keeping the Waterford plant open and that it had invested in another plant overseas after a recent round of cost-cutting.
Bosses and trade union leaders are to start talks next Tuesday towards a resolution to the cutbacks proposal by June 17.
Angelo Conti, vice president of Bausch & Lomb, said the cost of running the Waterford plant was "substantially out of line" with its other operations worldwide.
"Given Bausch & Lomb is currently trailing its competitors in the global contact lens market with a distant fourth position in market share, the status quo is not sustainable," he said.
"We are now faced with a stark choice; restructure in Waterford and secure its future, or see the plant close."
Mr Bruton urged both management and unions to work together to secure the future of the plant.
Alan O'Leary of trade union Siptu said the Government needed to redouble its efforts to save the threatened jobs.
"Each and every job saved is a household spared the considerable financial worry and concern associated with losing employment," he said.