Private Notice Question. - Future of Shannon (Clare) Industry.

asked the Minister for Trade, Commerce and Tourism if he is aware of the proposal to restructure Mitel International Shannon, County Clare, with the immediate loss of 130 jobs; the efforts he is making to secure the future of the industry, and if he will make a statement on the matter.

I have learned with regret this company's proposal to restructure their operations with a loss of some 130 jobs. I am informed that this has come about because of a fall in worldwide demand for the product of the group of which this firm forms a part. The Shannon Free Airport Development Company have been, and will remain, in close contact with the firm and every effort will be made to minimise job losses and to find alternative employment for those affected.

The Minister will be aware that this high technology industry has been in Shannon for some time and has given very good employment. The sudden and unexpected difficulties there have shaken the confidence of the people in the region and their prospects for the future. Can the Minister give any indication what special efforts he is making, in view of the importance of this type of industry for the region, to avert this crisis?

I agree that this is a high technology industry and as such would be viewed by my Department as very important to developing the industrial structure of the country. However, I want to emphasise that the problems are international in nature rather than related to the actual plant itself which I understand is operated efficiently. I hope the restructuring of the plant will be successful but the Deputy will understand that I would not wish to say too much in this House or to make any comment that would jeopardise the possibility of a restructuring of the company at this time.

The Minister will appreciate that this is an international company with branches in Florida and Puerto Rico and there are two plants in the United Kingdom, one in Wales with 500 to 600 employees. The difficulties being experienced by this company do not appear to be shared in proportion among the people in different projects. Is the Minister satisfied that the redundancies of half the workforce at Shannon is in proportion to the remedies being suggested by the company generally?

I am aware that the company have a plant in Wales. They also have plants in Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Hong Kong and New Zealand. I understand the company commissioned a consultants' report which to my knowledge is not as yet finalised and that report may recommend rationalisation internationally. I am concerned that it be realised that there are two alternatives: one is a complete shut down, which we would not like to see, and the other is a restructuring of the company which was referred to in the company's press release today. The Deputy will appreciate that this is a delicate matter and I do not want to say too much in the House, but he can be assured that I, the Industrial Development Authority and the Shannon Free Airport Development Company will also be very closely in touch with developments in the days ahead.

Is the Minister confident that there will be a continuity of employment in Mitel?

I am cautiously optimistic that a restructuring of the company at Shannon can be successfully effected and that employment will be maintained in the plant at a lower level. If the restructuring is successfully completed I hope some of those made redundant may have the opportunity of being re-employed. At this time it is too early to be confident of the outcome.

I fully appreciate the Minister's position and we support fully any plans to restructure, but we need more details of what is involved in the restructuring operation.

In his earlier remarks the Minister referred to a fall-off in demand in the international market for this product. Can he tell us if there has been a fall-off in demand on the home market because I do not believe that is the case.

The Deputy will appreciate that the company's products are exported to Europe and the Middle East. We are not talking about national demand but international demand. In passing I would like to say that there has been a down-turn in the United States sales of the company's products. The company are concerned about their profitability internationally and are taking steps to rectify their total operations to ensure on-going profitability.

Was there any question of product obsolescence which affected the export of the product and is there a demand for PABX from that firm on the home market?

I am not aware that there was any problem relating to product obsolescence.

Have the officials of the Minister's Department or SFADCo any plans to meet the chairman of the board of management to discuss how the company can be structured? What efforts is the Minister making in this regard?

Every step will be taken and every necessary contact made with the relevant people in the company to ensure the restructuring of the plant.