I thank the Ceann Comhairle for allowing me to raise this matter on the Adjournment.
The number on the live register in County Kerry has increased by over 100% since December 2007. Between then and October 2009, the number on the live register increased from 7,288 to 15,106. In December 2007, there were 3,249 people on the live register in Tralee but this has now increased to 6,269 according to the figures released for October. The increase is due to the decline in the construction industry in the county, in respect of which there has been a reduction in employment from 11,500 in 2006 to 5,125 in 2009. This is a major blow. However, it is also due to the loss of jobs in the manufacturing sector.
In recent years, Tralee has lost most of its manufacturing industrial base, including Denny, Amann, Glen Dimplex, Kleinhuis and Ridgeview. Apart from the development by Shannon Development of Kerry Technology Park, which opened in 2001 and which now supports over 300 well-paid jobs, very few industrial jobs have been created in Tralee, either by IDA Ireland or more recently by Enterprise Ireland since it took over from Shannon Development.
The announcement on Wednesday, 11 November by the management of BERU Electronics that it may have to shed up to 80 jobs came as a major disappointment and a further blow to the local economy. Management at the company confirmed on 11 November that it will reduce its workforce at the Tralee-based operation. The proposal forms part of an overall reorganisation by the group to ensure ongoing competitiveness in line with global economic conditions and the serious downturn in the worldwide automotive industry.
The company said in its press release that it intended to enter consultation with staff to protect the employment of approximately 120 people at its Tralee plant, where 200 are currently employed, and that the reorganisation may involve some 80 redundancies among the workforce. It stated also the redundancies would be in order to avoid possible closure of the facility, which is currently loss-making.
The management stressed in its press release that the company remains committed to its operations in Tralee, where it has been located since 1985. The initiative it proposes is designed to bring costs into line with overall economic conditions and to return the Tralee-based facility to profitability based on current and future expected sales volumes.
In the press statement, the plant manager, Mr. Paddy Lange, said the company must address the over-capacity that exists in the company's international production facilities. He stated that while this has already involved plant closures in places such as Italy, Hungary, Mexico and Korea, and job losses in other countries, the company is hopeful of sustaining and securing the future of its long-standing operations in Tralee as market conditions improve.
I call on the Minister of State, Deputy Conor Lenihan, to convey to the Minister that it is very important that IDA Ireland and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment provide every support possible to the company to help it survive. I welcome the fact that the Department has approved the employment subsidy scheme for the company. This will no doubt help.
I call on IDA Ireland, through the Minister, to try to provide resources to the company to help it research and develop further products. It is critical that the company look to other areas in the automotive industry in order to create further jobs and possibilities. I hope new opportunities arise on foot on an upturn in the industry globally. I hope the Minister of State has a very positive response. Tralee and Kerry as a whole have been devastated by job losses. We must create new jobs, which is very difficult, and at least protect the existing ones.