I propose to take Questions Nos. 378 to 381, inclusive, and 384 together.
The decision by Novartis to make a large number of redundancies across two of its Cork sites over the coming years is deeply disappointing. Our primary concern remains supporting those who will be directly impacted by the job losses. That is why every form of state assistance will be made available to the firm’s employees.
Whilst it does not change the fact that valuable jobs will be lost, it’s important to note that the redundancies at the Novartis firms will take place over the next three years: 60 in 2020, 80 in 2021 and 180 in 2022. That does at least provide time in which intensive efforts will be made to offset some of these future job losses through the creation of new employment opportunities in the Ringaskiddy and Carrigaline areas. It is also the case that the employees affected have highly sought-after skills and experience in the competitive pharmaceutical industry. Given the industry’s significant presence in Ireland, and its particular footprint in the wider Cork area, we can be hopeful that many of those who will be made redundant should be able to quickly find similar high-quality jobs in the same industry.
As regards State engagement with Novartis itself, IDA Ireland has a close working relationship with the firm, as it does with the vast majority of its client companies. I understand that officials from the Agency had several meetings this year, both in Cork and abroad, with Novartis management. The IDA was therefore both aware that the company was examining the efficiency of its global manufacturing network and that its facility in Ringaskiddy was operating below capacity. Accordingly, the Agency engaged with Novartis to support and safeguard its future presence here, in a similar way to how it regularly works with its clients all over Ireland to help grow their business and employment numbers in the country.
However, whilst there was an awareness of under-capacity at the facility in Ringaskiddy, the first the IDA learnt of the company’s intention to make any employees redundant was on 22 October. Once that information was provided by the company to the IDA that evening, the Agency relayed it to myself and my Department through an early warning report. We unfortunately did not have any other prior notice of potential job losses at the company.
I subsequently spoke directly with the company’s management. I made it clear that the Irish Government very much regretted its decision. IDA officials also held separate meetings with Novartis since the announcement, with both its management in Ringaskiddy and in Basel, Switzerland.
As I have said, our focus now is supporting the impacted employees and their families. Key State supports include the Intreo service, operated by the Department of Employment Affairs Social Protection. That will help advise employees on entitlements and protections, as well as on re-training and education options. The IDA will be working hard, with both its existing clients in the area but also with prospective investors, to create new jobs in the area.
While it is difficult to be positive so soon after an announcement of redundancies, the reality is that Cork – including the strong biopharmaceutical industry there – has performed strongly in foreign direct investment terms in recent years. Nearly 15,000 net new jobs have been created by IDA clients there over the last nine years. That trend looks set to continue and therefore provides grounds for optimism that new jobs can soon be created to replace those that will be unfortunately lost at Novartis.