Baxter announcement sends shockwaves around Castlebar

FG says Baxter is committed to the town

The news that 110 jobs are to be shed by Baxter in Castlebar in the coming months, sent shockwaves through the town when news of the losses emerged late last weekend. The pharmaceutical company which has been in Castlebar since 1972 is one of the major employers in Castlebar and surrounding areas and this news will have come to a shock to hundreds of families in the county. Since the news there have been widespread calls from political and local groups for the Government to ensure that all is done to ensure there are no further job losses from the plant.

On Thursday the local Fine Gael councillors in Castlebar issued a statement saying that following a meeting with representatives from Baxter, Castlebar remains an important part of the company’s vision for the future.

Mayor Noreen Heston stated: “Baxter has continued to invest in the Castlebar plant and it is important that people know this. There is an ongoing investment of €4.5 million along with Mayo County Council in wastewater treatment. Just this month €1.5million has been spent on the replacement of water treatment equipment at the facility, and we have been told by management that there is €7 to €9 million in the budget for plant upgrade in 2014.” Cllr Eugene McCormack added: “The reality is that there is consistent investment. The recent announcement was a blow to Castlebar, however it is something we in Fine Gael, along with our Taoiseach, are working to overcome.”

Cllr Ger Deere said: “The workforce in Baxter after this recent announcement remains above 800 and we have been assured that the plant is not in any danger. Management explained that €27 million of the €36 million renal therapy products it produces are made in the town and that the plant is in a strong position for the future. There is no doubt that this was unwelcome news for Castlebar but it is important that local councillors engage with management as we have done.”

Cllr Brendan Heneghan said he was very disappointed to see the recent announcement but that he will continue the fight to improve the town. “Things are getting better nationally and I am confident that Castlebar will begin to see this in the near future. It has been a very mixed week for the town with the announcement of 150 jobs but also the loss of 110. We have to deal with the reality of the situation now and press ahead with making the town an attractive place for investment. We can’t create jobs from thin air but I am confident that Castlebar will bounce back from this setback and we will be in a position to announce further jobs in the future.”

Labour Party Cllr Harry Barrett has called on the Taoiseach to ensure the future of the plant saying it was an “extremely worrying” decision by Baxter to seek further voluntary redundancies on top of the 150 workers let go last year on a voluntary basis. He added: “This is shocking news for the workers at Baxter and a blow to the families affected here in Castlebar and surrounding areas so close to Christmas. Baxter has been a strong employer in Castlebar for decades with excellent performance and highly skilled workers.”

Sinn Féin Councillor Thérèse Ruane has described this week’s announcement of 110 job losses by Baxter as a devastating blow for workers and their families. She said: “Many have worked for the plant for many years and I wish to express my concern for them at this difficult and worrying time. What's particularly upsetting is that workers had to hear this shocking news as they worked their shifts on Monday morning on radio. Surely management should have ensured that this devastating news was communicated from management in the first instance.”

Local area representative for Fianna Fáil, Lisa Chambers, said: “The Government really need to take note of these job losses and do whatever it can to secure more jobs for Castlebar as the town cannot take any more. It is an astonishing coincidence that only last week we had the announcement of 150 jobs to be created in Mayo over a three year period, while this is of course welcome it does not make up for the almost immediate loss of 110 jobs to the county town.”

Cllr Barrett also hit out at the Western Development Commission this week saying: “The board of the Western Development Commission should do the right thing and resign. The WDC is supposed to be a lobby group for the west, but my figures show that it is toothless, ineffective, and not fit for purpose. It doesn't lobby Government and the net effect is that nothing is coming west. On its website it pledges to ensure that Government policy is directed at improving the social and economic situation in the region, this is not happening and I've got the figures to prove it.” Cllr Barrett also pointed to the Government’s most recent Action Plan for Jobs 2013, maintaining that it contains no reference to the target that had been laid out in a plan published in 2012 for the IDA to “deliver 50 per cent of investments outside the Dublin and Cork regions

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