A number of Galway politicians have called on the Tánaiste to provide a replacement industry and retraining for the 180 workers who will lose their jobs when the US-owned Cigna health care company pulls out of Loughrea.
All 180 staff were told at a meeting held last Monday that the Cigna medical claims processing plant will be shut down in June and that lay-offs will begin in March. These latest job cuts are set to be a major blow to the local economy as the centre, which has been in operation since 1989, is one of the town’s largest employers.
Fine Gael TD for Galway East Ulick Burke has described the announcement as “devastating”. Speaking from the Mansion House in Dublin last Tuesday, ahead of the 90th Dáil Anniversary celebrations, Deputy Burke vowed to personally raise the issue with the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise Mary Coughlan TD.
“I will be asking the Tánaiste to make available some of the €10 million, given by Europe for the re-training of the unemployed, to the 180 workers. There are some who think that this funding has been designated to the Dell employees but it is country-wide.
“I will also be advising that Government representatives visit all indigenous industries to find out about their situation and what they need to survive. If they are not helped now it could be too late. We need to be proactive rather than re-active... I am hoping that there will be a replacement industry as quickly as possible,” he said.
These sentiments were echoed by Fianna Fail TD Noel Treacy who expressed profound shock that so many jobs would be lost so quickly in this time of global downturn.
“I have already spoken with IDA management and with the Tánaiste and the Minister for Enterprise Mary Coughlan TD, regarding the need to redouble all of our national efforts to ensure that a replacement industry is found for the unfortunate Cigna workforce and others as quickly as possible,” he said.
Deputy Treacy also paid tribute to the local vice president Mike Stankard and his outstanding staff in Loughrea “for their collective contribution to the local and regional economies over the past two decades”.
Cigna has revealed that these cost-cutting measures will result in the targeted reduction of 1,100 individuals from its global workforce of 28,000. The work of the Loughrea centre will be transferred to offices in India and the Philippines.
“This action is very difficult, as these employees have been making meaningful contributions to Cigna’s success,” said Brett Browchuk, senior vice president in charge of service operations. He added that the action was taken “to realign resources with our business needs in order to maintain cost effective operation with staffing levels to match our capacity and workload”.