Bulmers, the Clonmel-based cider makers, are seeking 121 redundancies by this summer.
Of the proposed lay-offs, 103 relate to the South Tipperary plant, with the others spread between its Dublin offices and the North.
The company, which is owned by Irish drinks group C&C, currently employs 433 people in Clonmel and a further 46 commercial staff in Dublin, plus 70 in the North.
A meeting took place between local managing director Aidan Murphy and workers at the factory yesterday (Thurs) morning. Job cuts were feared on foot of a review of operations across the business announced before Christmas.
In brief statement the company said the job losses would be voluntary and that it wants the reorganisation plan finalised by June.
The rationalisation plans follow a collapse in cider sales since a 2006 high, when a roll-out of the Magners export brand, backed by extensive marketing, saw a surge in orders, particularly in the UK. However, competition from Scottish & Newcastle’s Bulmers Original brand has been one factor in the fall-off across the water.
Here at home, though the fastest-growing drinks brand in Ireland since the mid-’90s, to the extent that the country has the highest cider consumption per capital in the world, the price of a Bulmers pint bottle outstrips virtually all other beers – hence the inexorable downturn in ‘on-licence’ alcohol sales generally was bound to have an effect.
Investment bank Goldman Sachs recently put a zero valuation on the UK cider business on a standalone basis, saying: “In the current climate and with another 4,000 pubs, out of a total estimate of 60,000, expected by our pubs research team to be closed in the UK in 2009, we struggle to see how the Magners brand decline can be arrested by C&C and the new management.”