Bausch and Lomb, one of the largest private sector employers in the South East, is seeking a further 120 voluntary redundancies amongst its 1,200-strong workforce. This follows the oversubscribing of a 195-worker voluntary redundancy scheme in March.

Management met with union officials on Tuesday afternoon to outline details of their cost-cutting proposals. The job cuts are the latest in a series of money-saving measures at the contact lenses and eye health-care plant this year.

The company’s 1,400 workers entered a short-time working agreement of one week unpaid leave per month in February which was suspended in May. The company said at the time that this short-time measure was a response to the state of the global economy’, adding that it ‘was prudent not to unnecessarily build high inventory levels of product without being certain of what impact the economic downturn might have on consumer purchase decisions’.

Mayor’s comments

Commenting on the announcement, Mayor of Waterford Cllr John Halligan said his first thoughts were with the employees at Bausch & Lomb who would leave the company as a result of this cost-cutting decision.

“They will enter a very difficult labour market and, while retraining may be an option for some, it is difficult to see where the replacement job opportunities will be for them in at least the short to medium term. It is also a reality that almost 200 employees already agreed to leave the company earlier this year which suggests most with an interest in voluntary redundancy will already have left.

“Bausch & Lomb has been very good to Waterford and the city has in turn been good to the company, providing a hardworking team which has helped build up the largest manufacturing facility in this global company. As recently as last week, we were reminded of the great social awareness of the Bausch & Lomb workforce in Waterford when they marked their Day of Caring by distributing grants and various forms of direct aid to numerous worthy causes.

“I accept that Frank O’Regan, Colum Honan and the rest of the management team at Bausch & Lomb will have examined all options prior to making the decisions announced today but can’t help but wonder if the business environment here has contributed to this and similar outcomes for Waterford.”

Mayor Halligan launched a particularly scathing attack on Minister Martin Cullen and Deputy Brendan Kenneally whom, he said, ‘briefly found their voices on the Waterford Crystal issue but seem to have gone off radar since and any useful impact they have had on the Crystal situation is certainly not apparent’.

“While they were quick enough to climb over each other’s shoulders to take credit for various announcements when things were more buoyant, there is a deafening silence from our Government representatives as Waterford’s dole queues lengthen and previously rock solid employments come under growing threat” , said the Mayor.

Deasy’s call

In a statement, Fine Gael TD, John Deasy, said it was time for State agencies, and the IDA in particular, to focus on Waterford, considering the massive job losses that it has endured over the last two years. “After hundreds of jobs were lost in Waterford Crystal, other large employers, such as ABB among many others, have indicated that they cannot sustain their businesses and retain their workforces within the city.

“I know I am going to repeat myself and others when I say that the Institute of Technology in Waterford should be given university status immediately. The city needs some method to counteract these massive job losses and providing university status to the Institute has been identified as a key factor in industrial growth for the city and the region.

“Fianna Fáil must stop giving lame excuses as to why Waterford’s Institute cannot gain university status. How many more jobs are going to be lost in Waterford before the Government takes decisive action”, asked Deputy Deasy.