Waterford Mayor John Halligan has called for urgent government intervention following yesterday’s announcement that ABB is to shut down operations at Tycor, with a loss of 178 jobs – bringing the City’s unemployment total to 13,000.
He said top government representatives should seek immediate talks with company management and directors to see if there was any way of saving the industry.
And in more general terms he demanded to know how long more must Waterford and the region haemorrhage jobs before the government accepted the case for re-designating WIT as a university. “How many further job losses will it require before they accept their considerable share of responsibility for squandering the boom, thus ensuring that Ireland was hit to a unique degree by the global economic downturn”, he wondered.
Closure of ABB, which manufactures distribution transformers for the construction and utility markets in Ireland and Britain, is to take effect by the end of March next. Management attributes the cause to “significantly lower orders and lack of potential business in the markets it serves, making the operation unviable”.
A statement said the company had entered into a consultation process with its unions (of which SIPTU is the main one) and employees “and will do its best to support them in every possible way”. It is expected that the redundancy terms will be relatively generous.
The factory, formerly ACEC and taken over by ABB in 1992, has been in operation since 1951.
The Mayor, who once worked at ACEC, said it would reflect poorly on Waterford’s public representatives if they didn’t do all in their power to pressurise the government into action.
“Since the traumatic loss of Waterford Crystal, we have the worst unemployment figures in the country, per capita”, he said. “We must strive with all our might to prevent a worsening of the situation, particularly as the factory well served the city and so many of its families through the years”.
He expressed the hope that if the shutdown materialised the workers would get the best possible redundancy terms.
ABB has other units in Tallaght, Dundalk, Cork and Lisburn and management says that for the moment it is “business as usual” at those locations.
As of now all of the Waterford jobs are safe until March but it is understood that could change as markets dictate.
Walter Cullen, Regional Officer for UNITE the union, (above) said: “The people of Waterford have been hammered with bad news since the start of the year. The loss of Waterford Crystal and so many more jobs, including these now at ABB exact a terrible toll on those involved, their families and the whole city and region.
“With over 13,000 people unemployed now in the City we are on the point of meltdown. We have to engage immediately in a stimulus programme to save and create jobs. UNITE published proposals only last week on how such a programme can be funded and implemented as the only way out of the economic disaster we are in the midst of.”
“There are options for government other than to accelerate the spiral of decline through cutting expenditure, raising taxes, and forcing more people onto the dole. The price we pay for that approach is too high in financial and human terms.”
“It is a price which our members and the other workers at ABB are facing up to today, though we will now be entering a process of negotiation with the employer to secure the best terms possible for them,” Mr Cullen said.
Fine Gael Senator Paudie Coffey said the devastating loss of jobs at ABB would be exacerbated by a ripple effect which would impact severely on local contractors and services.
He maintained that implementation of his party’s New Era policy would prevent businesses such as ABB from going to the wall.
Supporting the Mayor’s call for government intervention, City Councillor David Cullinane (SF) said every avenue must be explored to save jobs at the plant. He asked that the Minister for Trade and Enterprise enter into direct talks with the company.
He added: “I appreciate it may not be possible to save all the jobs. However, ABB makes transformers and components for the green technology industry in the area of wind farms, an industry in which governments are investing around the world. Surely there is scope for this Green-tinted government to intervene”.
Govt ‘in denial’
Local Labour TD Brian O’Shea said the “devastating” announcement is a further body blow to the economy of Waterford and the southeast “at a time when the number of people out of work has doubled in the last 12 months.
Demanding “a far more pro-active approach” from a government “in denial”, he said “nowhere is that more critical than in Waterford, where job losses at companies like Waterford Crystal and at Bausch and Lomb are already biting hard.”
He again called for WIT to be upgraded to a university, as well as upskilling initiatives and a temporarily nationalisation of the banks to get credit flowing again, plus tax breaks for employers to take on additional workers.