Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Questions (25)

Denis Naughten


25. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the progress to date on protecting employment at Covidien and Alkermes, Athlone, County Westmeath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50402/13]

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Written answers (Question to Jobs)

Both Covidien and Alkermes are still in the process of implementing redundancy programmes at their facilities in Athlone. While 100 redundancies, to be implemented over a two year period, were announced at their facility in September 2011, Covidien Athlone remains an important part of the Covidien Group in Ireland, with over 600 employees, including a Research and Development group that is solely responsible for the design, development and the resulting new product introduction of a range of products. It has been responsible for a number of key product launches in its area.

In relation to Alkermes Athlone, reductions of approximately 100 to 130 staff, from a workforce of 420, were announced earlier this year, to take place over a two-year period as older product lines are phased out. This process is on-going through a combination of natural attrition, voluntary redundancy and compulsory redundancy. The Athlone facility will continue to play a strategic part in Alkermes’ future business, and significant investment is planned to be made at the site over the next number of years which will allow Alkermes to focus primarily on the manufacture of newer, advanced pharmaceutical product lines. World-class development and manufacturing activities at the plant will remain robust and it will continue producing global pharmaceutical products.

It is very unfortunate that these redundancies had to be initiated but you will appreciate that the Pharma sector is going through significant challenges worldwide and parent companies need to make strategic decisions for their future, which can involve reducing job numbers. However, both companies retain very significant operations in Ireland.

New product innovation drives the future of the Life Sciences business, and Ireland continues to provide a very attractive offering to these companies particularly in terms of access to highly-trained medical technology research and development experts and world class third level institutions. Access to highly skilled personnel, with expertise and experience in quality-driven, advanced manufacturing techniques is hugely attractive to companies investing here. In this regard, there have been some significant investment announcements in Ireland by companies in the Life Sciences area, particularly in the Pharma/Biopharma sector. Examples of these announcements include:

- Sanofi (Waterford, Feb. 2013) to invest €44 m in Genzyme’s biotechnology campus in Waterford.

- Novartis (Dublin, Apr.2013), the world’s second largest pharmaceutical company, is to establish a Business Services Centre in Dublin. The company now has four sites in Ireland.

- Vistakon Ireland (Limerick, Jan. 2013), a company which designs, manufactures & makes soft disposable contact lenses, announce plans to invest over €100m in expansion of its manufacturing operations in Limerick, up to 100 new jobs.

In 2012 foreign-owned companies based in Ireland employed 21,641 people in the chemicals sector compared to 21,499 in 2011 (+ 0.7%) and 24,625 people in the medical devices area compared to 23,627 (+ 4.2%). Following a decline in growth by foreign-owned companies from 2008 to 2011, there are now positive signs of growth in these areas. Based on this positive trend it is expected that there will continue to be future gains for Ireland in the Life Sciences sector.