Fine Gael MEP Colm Burke is confident that Hasbro will remain a manufacturing presence in Waterford city for many years to come.
Speaking exclusively to The Munster Express, the Cork-based parliamentarian offered an optimistic assessment about the toy producer’s future on the Cork Road.
“They produce a quality product, it’s on the world market and they really do a very good job,” said Mr Burke on Thursday last.
“They have a very committed workforce in Waterford and I have no difficulty at all in saying that the company is very happy to stay there and will remain there long into the future.”
Mr Burke has been engaged in discussions with Hasbro in relation to a Toys Directive currently being formulated in the European Parliament.
“This directive will bring in new regulations and restrict the use of certain items in the manufacture of toys,” he explained.
“It might involve the use of certain paints, or say for instance the use of magnets. There was one case when a young boy swallowed 11 magnets and they started clicking together in his intestines which caused huge problems.”
He added: “Obviously there’s a need for regulation but at the same time there’s also a need to take on board the concerns of manufactures as regards if they come in too fast. They need a time period in which to change the product that they are manufacturing.”
Worried that the new directive might be enforced too quickly for companies like Hasbro to comply with, Colm Burke pursued the matter through parliament.
“We felt the pace at which the directive was moving towards implementation wouldn’t give manufacturers the chance to develop new systems to manufacture an alternative product,” he continued.
“We took on board Hasbro’s concerns and met with their lawyers here in Brussels. My own background is in the legal area so I sat down and drafted up some of the amendments that we wanted for the directive.
“Then I went to my own group in parliament, the EPP, the biggest single group in parliament with 288 out of 785 members; they took on board my amendments and we’re trying to push it through parliament at the present time, although it’s still not certain.
“But we think we will get the changes that we need. Obviously, the Commission has to take on board the concerns of the manufacturing industry as well.
“We must prioritise safety, there’s no doubt about that, but we also must also recognise that these products are not in any way defective as is. It’s about making them even safer.”
The point of origin of some 17 per cent of defective toys imported into the EU last year couldn’t be traced, a source of major concern at European level.
“Last year, the EU Commissioner went to China to try and ensure that a standard could be reached regarding what China was manufacturing,” said Mr Burke.
“As a result of going to China, 750 companies were closed down – which, despite sounding like a lot isn’t much in their domestic terms. But it was important from a European point of view.
“We’re now coming into a toy-heavy market again coming up to Christmas. Health and safety is obviously a priority but it’s important to strike a balance in terms of job security.”