The announcement last week of short-time work at Bausch & Lomb has come as another shock to the jobs market in Waterford, already savaged by the economic collapse.

The eyecare firm, which employs 1,400 people, said that starting next month staff would have to take a week off each month for six months, without pay. The situation is to be reviewed on an ongoing basis.

Explaining the decision, a company spokesman said it was taken in response to the state of the global economy. He said 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.

Management at the plant, which manufactures contact lenses and other eye health-care products, said they were working closely with employees and the social partners in finding solutions to meet the current challenges. 

No surprise

SIPTU Branch Organiser Marie Butler said the announcement did not come as a surprise. However she expressed concern that workers and the local community in Waterford would again take the main hit for the current market problems.

“There are no jobs being lost and, in the current climate, this is to be welcomed”, she added. “The plans for short time working have been put to SIPTU for discussion and we intend working with the company to make sure the short time is managed in a way that protects jobs into the future.

“The decision will undoubtedly put considerable financial strain on our members and their ability to meet their commitments, and will restrict their spending in the local economy. In addition, it will increase the burden on the state, through payment of job seekers allowance and a loss of tax revenue at a time when the state purse is apparently empty.”

Waterford Fine Gael Senator Paudie Coffey described the announcement as a shocking blow which would be devastating for the workers and their families. “Meanwhile”, he said, “as people struggle to make ends meet, this negligent government continues to preside over increases in essentials like gas, electricity, water and other state-controlled charges”. He accused them of having sleep-walked us into a nightmare situation. 

85 jobs gone at Citigroup?

Meanwhile, management representing US financial giant Citigroup’s Waterford operation at Butlerstown Technology Park were unwilling to comment on reports that the branch was to close with a loss of 95 jobs.

The reports indicate that, last week, staff were given the option of redundancy or moving abroad to retain their employment.

Last November it was announced that the group was shedding 50,000 posts worldwide in a bid to restore profitability. Citi’s hedge funds operation in Waterford, established in August of 2005, was originally expected to employ 250 people.

The group employs 2,200 in Ireland altogether but shares have been dropping heavily since the beginning of the year – down to 3 dollars – due to major worries regarding loan losses.