Up to 90 workers at Athlone’s Elan plant are to lose their jobs in the coming weeks.
Workers at the plant were called to a meeting first thing Wednesday morning to be briefed on the company’s plans to shed 115 jobs between their Athlone and Dublin operations. A 30-day consultation period was initiated, and until this is complete, the details of the redundancies will not be known, though it is expected 70 to 80 per cent of the job cuts will be in Athlone.
Elan has indicated that the job losses are to be in the ‘fill finish’ facility in Athlone, which fills vials for Alzheimer’s drug bapineuzumab, and in its biological manufacturing activities in both Dublin and Athlone. A further 115 jobs are to go at the company’s San Francisco base in the US.
In a statement released on Wednesday, Elan said the move was driven by recent changes in the biopharmaceuticals business, which had resulted in the need to reduce Elan’s global workforce by 14 per cent, or 230 positions. The changes are part of its “ongoing efforts to consistently and rigorously manage its overall cost base and direct additional investment toward its promising and late stage pipeline”.
According to Elan CEO Kelly Martin, the “internal realignment” was mainly due to an assessment of the biopharmaceuticals division by Dr Carlos V. Paya, who joined Elan as president late last year.
The company is postponing a decision on the manufacture of Alzheimer’s drug bapineuzumab until the results of ‘phase 3’ clinical trials are evaluated later this year.
Sympathy for the Elan workers and their families poured in from local politicians on Wednesday.
Mayor of Athlone, Cllr Egbert Moran, said his thoughts were with those who will lose their jobs, and with those in the company who have to implement the layoffs. “Hopefully when the economy improves these people can be re-employed or re-trained for employment elsewhere. If the new Alzheimer’s drug gets off the ground, there could be more jobs and new hope for Elan,” he said.
A number of local figures expressed alarm at the ever-increasing dole queues in Athlone. Senator Nicky McFadden said the losses highlighted the lack of action being taken by the Government to tackle the jobs crisis.
“The Midlands continues to haemorrhage jobs while the Government stays ‘schtum’ about any plans to create desperately needed jobs.
“Unemployment continues to skyrocket in Athlone and the most recent reports indicate that there are 3,083 people on the Live Register, an increase of almost 100 per cent on the same time last year,” said Senator McFadden.
Deputy Denis Naughten was particularly concerned for the company’s long term commitment to the local area. “If a long-standing blue chip employer like Elan was to lose confidence in the Midlands it would send out a very bad signal for potential future pharmaceutical investment in the area,” he commented.
Meanwhile Deputy Willie Penrose said the loss of the Elan jobs was particularly serious as they are “arising in an industry that has been touted as one of the sectors that would deliver jobs and deliver prosperity into the future”.