There was widespread shock this week at the news that 80 jobs are to be cut at the Dunbia meat factory in Kilbeggan.
Management of the Dungannon-based company said that the redundancies were part of “proposals to further reduce operating costs” at the Clara Road plant, which currently employs 250 people. The company is now to enter into a 30 day consultation process with its employees.
Local politicians spoke of the devastating effect the job losses would have on the town and local community which are heavily dependent on the facility.
Fine Gael Senator Nicky McFadden described the news as “truly terrible news” for the town, the entire area, the workers, and their families. “Dunbia is the single biggest employer in Kilbeggan and is hugely important to the local economy. Kilbeggan will be devastated by this news,” she said.
“There is very little alternative employment in the immediate area, and the entire midlands region has been badly hit by the current depression. The live register in Westmeath has shot up by 89 per cent in the last 12 months with more than 4,000 extra people now signing on. The prospects for anyone looking for a new job are particularly bleak.”
Senator McFadden took the opportunity to blast the Government for its lack of action on the current jobs crisis. “It is vital that all relevant State agencies are brought in to help the affected Dunbia staff to find new work, including retraining and upskilling. Unfortunately, the Fianna Fáil Government has done almost nothing to secure existing jobs and find new ones. There is still no national strategy to address the unemployment crisis,” she said.
Meanwhile Deputy Willie Penrose said the job losses came at a time when it is particularly difficult for workers to find alternative employment, and that the crisis must be adressed as a matter of urgency.
“This employer is of critical importance to the local economy and any further threat to jobs there would be a very serious matter indeed especially in the context of the fact that every direct job that is lost, leads to the loss of an indirect job,” said Deputy Penrose.
“Since the Kilbeggan by-pass was built, passing trade in the town has declined and traders are coming under increasing pressure. Today’s news represents further bad news for local businesses,” he said.
“I believe the Government should expand community employment and job initiative schemes. The role of the county enterprise boards, which are involved in job creation measures affecting fewer than 10 people, an area not covered by Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland, should also be expanded.
“A wider range of start-up grants is also required and greater discretion should be allowed in this area which is excessively restrictive and governed by too many eligibility criteria. These grants must be changed to reflect the current circumstances,” he added.