Other Questions.

Job Losses.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

6 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the action he intends to take to bring alternative employment to Tallaght in Dublin on foot of the impending closure of a company (details supplied) with the loss of 200 jobs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6198/05]

I very much regret the recent announcement by APW Enclosures that it will cease production at its plant in Tallaght, County Dublin, by June 2005. FÁS has been in contact with the company and has offered its full range of services to those who will lose their jobs. In addition to services provided from its Tallaght office, the agency also offered to make its staff available on site, to give vocational guidance and help.

The industrial development agencies are continuing to market the Tallaght area for new jobs and investment. IDA Ireland's strategy for the Dublin area is to attract and expand major foreign direct investment projects, moving up the value chain. Tallaght continues to be actively marketed by IDA Ireland to potential investors and is well equipped to compete with other areas for potential foreign direct investment, with Tallaght Institute of Technology and superb infrastructural facilities at Citywest and Grangecastle.

Wyeth Biopharma has approximately 700 people employed in Clondalkin and this figure is expected to rise to 1,300 by the end of the year. The Japanese pharmaceuticals company, Takeda Chemical Industries, which will employ 60 people, has also begun construction in Clondalkin. At Citywest, project developments by SAP support services, AOL Technologies Ireland Limited and Colgate-Palmolive support services are providing 750 locally accessible job opportunities.

Following an agreement last year, Enterprise Ireland is supporting the development of business incubation space at the institute of technology. This facility is expected to generate quality start-up enterprises. The development agencies continue to work with existing companies to assist them to move up the value chain and increase employment potential. Companies which have availed of this process, with financial assistance from IDA Ireland, include Sage and Xilinx in Citywest.

Job losses and job gains have always been, and will continue to be, part of the economic landscape. However, our overall unemployment rate is among the lowest in Europe. In that context, it should be noted that the latest CSO live register analysis shows that those claiming unemployment benefits in Tallaght fell from 3,631 in January 2004 to 3,214 in January 2005, a drop of 11.5%.

I am satisfied the strong infrastructural support already in place, including the opening of Luas, will continue to attract jobs to Tallaght and the surrounding area.

I would expect the Luas to take people out of Tallaght rather than bring them to it. It can work both ways. I am concerned with the 200 job losses in the company in question rather than the other activities the Minister mentioned. He is getting fond of IDA Ireland-speak of "moving up the value chain". Such sentiments are of little comfort to the 200 employees in Tallaght who will lose their jobs.

Will the Minister consider some initiative in conjunction with Tallaght Institute of Technology, particularly in regard to the commercialisation of research and development? Establishing linkages between industry and the third level sector, as the Minister mentioned, is a positive approach. One must wonder what purpose FÁS retraining courses will serve. In instances of job losses on this scale in any part of the country, a proactive plan should be in place based on a template that has worked in the past.

The company involved has cited higher costs as the cause of the job losses. Will the Minister indicate if he has more specific plans than what he has said in a general way to ensure those affected will be given employment opportunities in the general area as soon as possible?

I have already indicated that Enterprise Ireland is working closely with the Institute of Technology Tallaght in encouraging the commercialisation of research. It has supported the development of business incubation space at the institute to the amount of €2.54 million. In the restructuring of Enterprise Ireland we are requesting it to focus on the commercialisation of this area. Science Foundation Ireland will also have a strong role to play as part of the wider Government research and development programme. It is the position we will have to be in to maintain economic sustainability. People may not like terms such as "going up the value chain" or "research and development".

Has the Minister listened to Sean Downey's comments?

I am not listening to any particular individual.

We are all listening.

The Deputies will be aware of global trends and these terms are part of the language at any international gathering. If one examines developed economies versus developing economies, it is clear where Ireland must stand. We must work quickly in upgrading the level of investment in innovation, research and development and so forth. There are 29 IDA Ireland companies in Tallaght employing 3,029 people. Six job creation projects involving foreign direct investment announced this year are located in Dublin. The overall Dublin employment scene is benign. I came from Dundrum this morning.

Was the Minister on his way to north Kildare?

No. It is estimated that 4,000 people will work at the new shopping complex there when it is completed. A wide range of developments are occurring in different sectors. In the Dublin scene, there will be job gains and losses with opportunities arising. FÁS has a role in attuning skills sets to these opportunities. Recently at the Dublin north side partnership, I presented FETAC awards to women who went back to FÁS for training, attaining properly certified skills and gaining employment as a result.

What the Minister says is correct but, as Deputy Hogan pointed out, it is all very general. The loss of 200 jobs at APW Tallaght is part of the attrition of jobs from the low and semi-skilled sector in the economy. This is the real issue. Is the Minister aware that a large number of such jobs in the sector are hanging on by their fingertips? How is the Minister actively identifying those vulnerable jobs, some of which will go over the edge this year? How will he put in place a safety net to complete the upskilling of workers? There is a large tranche of companies where wages are a small proportion of profits. There is a larger cohort where wages are slightly larger but it is not as vulnerable. Then there is another cohort, approximately 25% of jobs, where wages are a significant proportion of profits. These need to be identified to ensure the agencies for which the Minister is responsible are active in preventing job losses by upskilling and preparing workers for the transition to this new type of employment he has described. What is the Minister doing to identify this and put in these supports?

We know the sectors going through significant restructuring in the last two years, not least the agrifood and low cost sectors. However, we, and Enterprise Ireland in particular, are meeting the companies concerned and offering assistance, particularly for value-added goods. The food sector——

Are there mechanisms in place to identify them? Do they go to the Minister or is itvice versa?

We go to them. It is evident what sectors will be in difficulty. Likewise, €27 million extra was allocated to the national training fund for FÁS in-company training. This will allow it to get ahead of the game before people are made redundant in any restructuring of a company. Traditionally, FÁS rushed in providing programmes after people were laid off. This will mean a change in mindset from some employers to facilitate this, either in the workplace or in a learning environment, and for employees to take it up.

I do not have an argument with the Deputy on the core issue. I see Enterprise Ireland as the key agency for indigenous enterprise. Its role is in identifying problems and providing whatever range of supports it can, such as marketing and research, to enable a company to reposition itself and copperfasten its sustainability. IDA Ireland's strategy continues to develop new functions in existing companies and develop a broad portfolio of functions rather than having it depend on one core activity.

Job Creation.

Pat Breen

Question:

7 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the recent initiatives which have been undertaken to promote job growth in Clare and the mid-west region; and if Shannon Development is in active discussions with businesses with a view to having them locate operations in this region. [6112/05]

IDA Ireland has statutory responsibility for the attraction of foreign direct investment to the mid-west region, except for the Shannon free zone which falls within the remitof Shannon Development. Shannon Development is also responsible for supporting indigenous enterprises in the mid-west region. The city and county enterprise boards located in the region also help develop indigenous enterprise potential and stimulate economic activity at local level.

In 2004, Clare County Enterprise Board approved a total of €374,830 in grant assistance to 36 micro-enterprise projects at start-up or expansion stage with an employment potential of 67 jobs throughout the county.

IDA Ireland's sectoral emphasis in the mid-west region is on attracting new knowledge intensive projects in information communications and technology, international services, medical technologies and life sciences. Between 2001 and 2004, IDA Ireland companies in the mid-west committed to research and development projects worth €37 million.

Last year was a successful one for the mid-west region. Cook Incorporated announced its intention to establish its European shared services centre in Limerick which will add 50 new high quality jobs. Power-One Ireland Limited announced plans to expand its design team and establish its European customer and technical support centre which will create 29 jobs. Organic Lens announced a €6.5 million investment for the development of its manufacturing operations which will create 100 jobs. Monster Cable announced its intention to establish a shared services centre in Ennis which will create 50 jobs.

There was a net gain in the Shannon free zone of 147 jobs and a significant increase in the number of firms undertaking research and development. Shannon Development is in discussion with a number of organisations with a view to first-time investment in the zone. In addition, Shannon Development is in discussions with its existing portfolio of client companies to secure more of their parent company group activity for Shannon.

Shannon Development works with existing client companies throughout the remainder of the Shannon region to help develop the competitiveness of indigenous industry clients and to provide the services, infrastructure and support for aspirant high potential start-ups. This is done through the provision of financial supports and through individual programmes such as venture start, WCM programmes, Design Shannon and through the establishment and encouragement of business networks such as Supply Network Shannon.

The Minister referred to Shannon Development six times in his statement. With such praise, why has he removed its industrial development function? Employment levels in the Shannon region are at their lowest since 1998. The Minister referred to a number of industries that have set up in the region. However, it was 15 years ago that the last real industrial company, Organic Lens, located in County Clare. The Minister also referred to Monster Cable that set up there three years ago. While it claimed it would employ 50 people, it now only employs ten.

There is a view in the region that IDA Ireland only concentrates on the gateways and the eastern regions. Analyses in the past have shown a regional imbalance in foreign direct investment. Does the Minister have confidence in Shannon Development given the way he has been speaking about it? He spoke about information technology on which Shannon Development is concentrating, including investment networks and broadband. Is there a regional imbalance and a focus on the gateways and not on the hubs?

The Deputy has imagined things I have allegedly said about Shannon Development because I have not said any of the things he has suggested.

The Minister is taking away its powers.

It is almost as if the Deputy wants me to say negative things about Shannon Development——

I asked the Minister what role he sees for it.

——so he can go back to the constituency and proclaim my alleged denunciation of it.

I asked the Minister what role he sees for it but he still has not told me.

I will not provide content for any potential leaflet the Deputy may wish to distribute in the Shannon area or, indeed, in County Clare. I went out of my way to praise the performance of Shannon Development in China and the presentation it made to the Chinese authorities. The mid-west is doing quite well and, as I said, it did quite well last year in terms of foreign direct investment and the number of new companies which have come in.

The Minister has different figures from those we have.

New companies, such as Power-One, Cook Incorporated etc, are important. We know what happens when companies become embedded in our economy. They grow and evolve and new functions come on stream. This confirms the capacity of the region to attract foreign direct investment in the first instance, which is positive.

In terms of the restructuring of activities, I explained that the advent of the new independent airport authority is a significant development for Shannon and we need to work out the optimum structural arrangements to facilitate ongoing job creation in the area. Discussions are ongoing in that regard.

Work Permits.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

8 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if, in order to prevent exploitation of migrant workers, the Employment Permits Bill which is due for publication, will include provisions to allow permits to be held by workers instead of employers. [6135/05]

A work permit is granted to an employer in respect of a specified employee and job vacancy, where the employer can demonstrate that the vacancy cannot be filled from within the wider European Economic Area. The EEA comprises the 25 member states of the EU, Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland.

Apart from the renewal of existing permits, which now constitute the bulk of applications, new permits are confined to highly skilled and highly paid positions. Current policy is informed by the imperative to address the identified labour and skill needs in the economy. In order to best achieve these ends, the work permit is granted to the employer. This ensures greater traceability, the more effective enforcement of employees' rights and enhanced administrative efficiency. In addition, it offers the employee the assurance of a guaranteed work position.

The labour inspectorate of my Department is responsible for monitoring certain employment conditions for all categories of workers in Ireland, including migrant workers. Inspectors pursue allegations of worker mistreatment, and when evidence of non-compliance with the relevant employment rights legislation is found, the inspectorate seeks redress for the individuals concerned and, if appropriate, a prosecution is initiated.

An application for a work permit requires a statement countersigned by the would be employer and employee of the main functions of the job, salary-wages, deductions other than statutory, other benefits and hours to be worked per week. Work permits are not granted unless there is compliance with minimum wage legislation. Applications for renewals require documentary proof that the stated wages have been paid.

Persons employed in Ireland under the work permit scheme in recent years have been readily facilitated in changing jobs. In such circumstances, a new work permit is issued to the person's new employer. This allows an employee to move to a new employer where there are genuine reasons the employee wishes to leave his or her existing employment.

The proposed Employment Permits Bill, which is currently at the final stages of preparation, will include provision for additional protections for migrant workers. It is intended that employers will be prohibited from deducting from the remuneration of migrant workers any costs associated with their recruitment. Employers will also be prohibited from retaining personal documents belonging to migrant workers.

Any evidence that particular employers are exploiting their workforce should be brought to the attention of the labour inspectorate for investigation. The new Bill will also give enabling powers to the Minister, particularly in regard to the question of whether employees can retain their work permits which is under consideration.

I was very nervous until the last sentence because the Minister held back that crucial piece of information about which I asked, that is, whether the new Bill will give the worker the right to hold the work permit. The Minister said the Bill will contain a provision for regulation whereby the Minister will be able to decide. If the Minister is still in office when this Bill comes into force, will he effect such a regulation? Does he agree what is going on at present is an international shame? Some of the examples were cited earlier in response to Deputy Howlin's priority question where workers are not paid the minimum wage or prearranged wages and are working an excessive number of hours.

I asked if the Minister had seen the report from the migrant workers' centre dealing with a series of cases where foreign women in domestic jobs in middle class homes were working under disgraceful conditions. Does the Minister agree part of the reason foreign workers feel locked into these employments is that their permits are held by employers and not by themselves? The key issue is the Minister's willingness to exercise that regulation so that workers hold the permits which we all agree would enhance workers' rights considerably.

The issue of whether the employer or the employee should hold the work permit is constantly raised as if it somehow would become a check on any exploitation which might occur. Implicit in that belief is that by holding the work permits, employees would be able to change employment and avoid exploitation.

At present a work permit is given in respect of particular employment with a particular employer. Experience from the work permits system and the work authorisation scheme suggest the existing system is very easy to administer in so far as it attached to the employer. When allegations of wrongdoing or abuse are made, there is a register in place. If a non-EEA national entering the State on a work permit or under the work authorisation scheme changes employment, will there be a record of employment and so forth in respect of that person? I am disposed to greater freedoms and protections for employees coming here. This legislation will have stronger statutory protections for employees. However, if we move to that system, I want to ensure we do not create a new potential for exploitation and abuse. Currently we have a hold on the employer. If employers engage in unacceptable behaviour and if their behaviour causes difficulties, we can refuse to give them work permits in the future.

Deputy Joe Higgins raised an issue in the House approximately two weeks ago relating to a specific contract. The company concerned, which was a non-EEA company, won a specific contract from the State and work permits were issued in respect of that contract and no other. No evidence had been brought to the attention of the Department or the labour inspectorate prior to the case being raised in the House. The case is now being followed up and I think the Deputy has supplied some information. We need to be clear that evidence is the key for the labour inspectorate.

The Minister of State, Deputy Killeen, has direct responsibility for labour and we want to protect workers of all races and creeds. Maltreatment of workers, irrespective of race or creed, is unacceptable.

Unlike Deputy Morgan, I was quite alarmed by the Minister's response. The Tánaiste made a clear declaration to the House when she was in the Minister's Department she would bring in this legislation to effect a transfer of the work permit from the employer to the employee. It is years since that commitment was made but it is still a matter of debate. Does the Minister agree there is an unanswerable case that the work permit should accrue to the individual and not the company so the threat of deportation which is often made — I have dealt with such cases — is not available to an employer? It is a simple matter of registration with employment to ensure that the known employer complies with all normal regulations relating to pay etc. At least the right to stay in the country is held by the individual. I want a firm commitment that the information imparted to the House by the Tánaiste is not now being resiled from by her successor.

The Minister has given his personal commitment to introduce legislation. Can he do anything to expedite its introduction? When will it be before us? We will need to deal with a number of other issues when that Bill is taken.

The Bill is at the final stage of drafting. I take issue with Deputy Howlin. I am not resiling from anything. To have genuine discussion I like to air issues on the floor of the House as I have just done. The issue is how do we prevent the exploitation of workers, and I made the point that counter-arguments also exist.

What is in the Bill?

The Bill will give me the enabling power to do as Deputy Morgan has suggested. The Minister of the day will have enabling powers because inevitably——

Could it be either one of them?

No, the enabling powers will cover a variety of issues, particularly the ongoing economic trends. Inevitably decisions on our work permits system are underpinned by economic criteria. I am in favour of giving greater autonomy to the employee and of the employee having the work permit. However, I need to ensure I do not introduce a system that ultimately might allow the employee to be even further abused.

Prices Acts.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

9 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if it will be possible for him to issue regulations requiring the public display of doctors’ and dentists’ prices; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6220/05]

Brian O'Shea

Question:

17 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the reason it has been decided not to proceed with the promised order under the Consumer Affairs Act to require doctors, dentists and allied health professionals publicly to display their prices; the steps he proposes to take to ensure that patients are aware of the basic charges levied by doctors and dentists; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6158/05]

Paul McGrath

Question:

54 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the communication his Department had with the Department of Health and Children regarding plans to instruct doctors and dentists to display price lists; the nature of that correspondence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6208/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 9, 17 and 54 together.

On 16 December 2004 in reply to a parliamentary question I announced that I had decided not to proceed with the making of an order under the Prices Acts 1958 to 1972 to oblige doctors and dentists to display their charges. The reasons were both legal and practical. In particular, as a result of legal advice on the matter I had formed the view that it would not be possible to effectively enforce the display order for doctors and dentists and that making such an order would consequently not be appropriate. In the deliberations on this issue the Department of Health and Children was consulted and informed of the possible contents of an order. That Department had no objections to the making of an order. It supplied my officials with some suggestions as to items to be covered by the order but these did not affect my final decision.

I cannot see any way around the enforcement problems identified. However, the two professions can introduce measures under their own codes of practice to provide greater price transparency to patients. I did not want to introduce a scheme, as it would result in higher charges for patients.

Two weeks ago a newspaper quoted a Department official as saying the Department had been "outfoxed", to use the word contained in an internal memorandum, by the medical and dental professions. The long list of services that would have to be covered became ade facto way of nobbling the idea. The dental profession suggesting that a filling should not be covered was another outfoxing manoeuvre. How does the Minister respond to the publication of the comment from within his Department that it had been outfoxed by the professions?

Why does the Minister believe it would result in higher charges when the Competition Authority, the Director of Consumer Affairs and many others believe it would be a service to customers and possibly through the introduction of a slightly more competitive environment would lead to a reduction in prices?

The legal issues are very real and the most problematic would relate to data protection. We need to consider the practical implications. To check if patients had been charged no more than the price displayed, an inspector would need access to the patient records, which could not be done without the patients' consent. Whereas inspectors could seek consent, practical problems would arise. Would inspectors loiter in surgeries' waiting rooms and approach patients asking them the procedures they had received and then check the price charged against the display?

Has the Minister read the IMO submission?

Alternatively would inspectors wait outside surgeries and ask patients to divulge their details? Neither of these scenarios offers a viable basis for enforcing any price display order.

The Minister should read the IMO submission.

The number of procedures and tests a patient can receive is increasing all the time. There is a generic charge for people seeing a doctor and they have an expectation as to what they will be charged. Some of the lists that emerged did not enthuse me. I am entirely pro-consumer and I am satisfied I took the right decision in the interests of the consumer.

This first came to light in response to a parliamentary question I tabled. The Tánaiste announced this with great fanfare more than a year and a half ago and it was to be implemented in weeks. Following a meeting with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, an IMO spokesperson said that Department officials had pointed out logistical problems, which I have now heard rehashed. It is extraordinary that while we can have price lists for hairdressers and others, certain groups are untouchable. We surely can have a mechanism whereby we require the display of prices and while inspection might not take place we could certainly investigate complaints from patients who advise they were charged more than the displayed price. Why can this not be done? Without it we have no basis for real competition in certain sectors. We will have a competitive economy with no-go areas.

Prices can be displayed in various ways. The use of the Internet is now widespread among businesses and faculties and it would be capable of providing a longer list. Practices have certain basic core services, particularly for a regular visit not involving any procedures. The public display of those charges would not require an inspector hovering over patients in case they were overcharged. It would increase the access to simple basic information. I cannot believe it is beyond the powers of the Department and the relevant professional bodies to agree certain of those simple procedures that nobody could dispute had been carried out.

I would argue to the contrary. It is not as simple as has been suggested. When I saw the file, I decided I could not preside over introducing a scheme that could result in a €200 charge instead of a €50 charge. Deputy Howlin, who was Minister for Health for two and a half years, has as much experience of the concerns we are discussing as I have. The Deputy is laughing in acknowledgement. Can he tell me any scheme that was ever devised where the costs and inputs did not increase?

We are talking about transparency.

The Deputy should read my lips on this matter. Having reflected on the matter completely, it is better for the consumer not to go down this road. The legal issues are real in terms of doctor-patient confidentiality.

With cryptic messages between former Ministers for Health it is very difficult for the layman to understand what the Minister is talking about.

This former Minister does not understand.

National Minimum Wage.

Tom Hayes

Question:

10 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he is considering changes to the sub-minimum rates of the national minimum wage and to the structure of these rates. [6201/05]

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

80 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he intends to sanction the increase in the national minimum wage recommended by the Labour Court; when a decision on the matter will be made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6152/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 10 and 80 together.

The parties to the Mid-Term Review of Part Two of Sustaining Progress — Pay and the Workplace agreed to request the Labour Court to review the national minimum wage and to make a recommendation to the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment in accordance with the National Minimum Wage Act 2000, to apply with effect from 1 May 2005. In accordance with this commitment, the Labour Court has undertaken a review of the national minimum wage. Arising from this review, on 1 February 2005 the Labour Court recommended that the minimum wage be increased to €7.65 with effect from 1 May 2005. The national minimum wage legislation, allows a three-month period for my consideration of the Labour Court recommendation.

The Labour Court did not recommend any changes to the structure of the sub-minimum rates of the minimum wage nor is any currently proposed. However, any changes to the minimum wage, which may arise from this current review, would also impact on the sub-minimum rates as these are expressed in legislation as percentage rates of the national minimum wage. Therefore, if an increase to the minimum wage should become effective from 1 May, the sub-minimum rates would increase from that date also.

Does the Minister of State agree it would be more appropriate to adjust sub-minimum rates of pay in the context of national pay talks than to continue to require people to bring cases to the Labour Court? We need to ensure this country remains competitive, for example by ensuring that people receive appropriate levels of pay. Such issues should be resolved during the new pay round. Does the Minister of State agree it would be more appropriate to approach the matter in that context, rather then involving the machinery of the Labour Court?

I would like to ask the Minister of State about the minimum wage, which is the subject of Question No. 80. It was recently disclosed that some people working on the Dublin Port tunnel are being paid just half the minimum wage. Some 40 workers, who are involved in dangerous work on the tunnel, which is a major project, are being paid just €7 or €8 per hour. I have great concerns in that regard, especially as other workers involved in the same project are being paid twice that amount. Is the Minister of State aware of this problem? Will he do something about it?

The issue was the subject of the first priority question earlier this afternoon.

I apologise.

Deputy Howlin is correct. We have dealt with the issue raised by Deputy Finian McGrath in considerable detail already. I remind Deputy Hogan that the national minimum wage is set under the terms of the National Minimum Wage Act 2000. I do not propose to introduce legislation to change its existing legislative basis. I intend to ask the ESRI to conduct an assessment of the effect the current proposal would have on competitiveness.

Job Losses.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

11 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the action he intends to take to bring alternative employment to Clondalkin in Dublin following the closure of a company (details supplied) with the loss of 220 jobs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6193/05]

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

44 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his attention has been drawn to the recent job losses announced at a number of plants (details supplied); the steps he is taking to deal with the serious level of job losses; the plans there are for the provision of replacement industries in these locations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6171/05]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

65 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his attention has been drawn to the major concerns in the Bandon area, arising from the lay off of 178 of the staff of a major industrial plant in Brinny, near Bandon; if he has proposals in relation to employment possibilities for the staff in question and general employment possibilities in the Bandon area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6114/05]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

84 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the action he intends to take to bring alternative employment to Carlow town following the closure of the Greencore sugar company plant with the loss of 250 jobs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6196/05]

Richard Bruton

Question:

87 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the action he intends to take to bring alternative employment to Clonskeagh in Dublin following the closure of the Smurfit Paper Mills with the loss of 70 jobs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6194/05]

Enda Kenny

Question:

121 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his attention has been drawn to the decision by Greencore to close the beet processing plant in Carlow; the work being undertaken by Enterprise Ireland to secure an alternative industry for Carlow town; the progress to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6440/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 11, 44, 65, 84, 87 and 121 together.

I am aware of the recent job losses which have been announced. In such circumstances, my immediate concern is for workers who have lost their jobs or will lose them soon. The full services of FÁS are available to the workers at the earliest opportunity if they wish to avail of them. Services which are likely to be availed of relate to retraining and upskilling, which are of particular assistance when re-entering the workplace.

The job losses at Schering Plough will initially take place on a voluntary basis over a 12-month period. A similar reduction in numbers that was announced in December 2003 was achieved through voluntary redundancy and the ending of temporary contracts.

SerCom has decided to cease its production activities in Dublin to ensure it continues to provide the highest level of service to its customers in a profitable manner and protects the future viability of the business. It proposes to concentrate on its Limerick facility, in which 300 people are already employed. Some 32 jobs will be retained in Dublin to provide support services.

The decision by Jefferson Smurfit to close its operation in Dublin follows a detailed review of its paper mill operation, which has become uncompetitive. The Clonskeagh operation was the last paper manufacturing plant in Ireland.

The board of Greencore has made a commercial decision to cease the production of sugar beet in Carlow. The sole production facility in Ireland will be retained in Mallow. The full implications of the company's decision are being assessed by the development agencies.

Direct employment in companies in Cork supported by IDA Ireland continues to grow. Information and communications technologies, medical technologies and international services are the main sectors which are contributing to that growth. Projects approved in the last four years created up to 5,000 jobs. A number of developments in Cork will provide significant employment opportunities, such as Aer Rianta's investment at Cork Airport and the construction of a flyover at the Kinsale Road roundabout.

Wyeth Biopharma employs approximately 700 people at Clondalkin in Dublin, a figure that is expected to rise to 1,300 by the end of the year.

I was wondering what job creation in Cork had to do with job losses in Clondalkin.

I referred to Cork because Question No. 65 relates to job losses at Schering Plough near Bandon.

A Japanese pharmaceuticals company, Takeda Chemical Industries, has also begun construction in Clondalkin and will employ 50 people. A number of projects at Citywest are providing locally accessible employment opportunities for people in Clondalkin.

The existing base of overseas companies in Carlow consists of five firms, which employ almost 1,000 people. In addition, IDA Ireland has committed investment of €11.5 million to the development of Carlow business and technology park. Enterprise Ireland and the Carlow county enterprise board are similarly committed to the development of industry in Carlow.

Job losses and gains have always been and will continue to be part of the economic landscape. It is important to stress that Ireland's unemployment rate is among the lowest in Europe. The industrial development agencies are undertaking investment promotion activities to generate new flows of foreign direct investment into Ireland, while developing the indigenous industrial base. They are working to identify and support new investment opportunities from existing client bases. Ireland needs to maximise investment from growth sectors such as the medical devices sector. It is also important to maintain and improve the competitiveness of companies and to enhance their capacity for investment and employment creation. I am satisfied that the combined effort of the industrial development agencies, along with the involvement of local business and community interests, will be sufficient to address the job needs of the country in general.

Written answers follow Adjournment Debate.