Job losses - economic blip or bust?
BY ROBBIE MacGABHANN
220 jobs in Ballina, 260 jobs in Blanchardstown and 45 in Jamestown, Leitrim. The communities of these towns must have all taken a deep breath last weekend with the announcement of the closures of three separate companies. 500 jobs lost from the 26-County economy in one day must be news by anyone's standards, but what is its significance in terms of future economic prospects?
The losses could be analysed by some as three separate cases and not part of an overall economic trend. However when you add in the 200 jobs lost at Lowe Alpine last week, the profits warning from Intel and the announcement by Gateway of plans to cuts its global workforce by 10%, you could easily forgiven for seeing a sliding trend emerging.
The closures must signpost to the IDA and the Dublin government the downside of investing so much money in international companies who have no loyalties, not just to the Irish economy but to the host communities in which they are sited
One common trend between four of the closures announced over one seven-day period this month is the dreaded `corporate restructuring strategy'. While international companies clearly have the right to run their own companies, there must also be recognition of the impact their corporate decisions have here on the receiving end in Ireland.
Surely these closures must signpost to the IDA and the Dublin government the downside of investing so much money in international companies who have no loyalties, not just to the Irish economy but to the host communities in which they are sited?
The largest closure came at Thermo King in Blanchardstown. The company makes transport refrigeration units. The parent company is closing the plant as part of an international restructuring plan, and is now centring its Irish operations in Galway.
220 jobs were also lost at the Henniges Elastomer Ireland plan in Ballina. Henniges, a car components manufacturing plant, is moving its operations to Germany. Its parent company, Gencorp, has being modernising plants in other locations. The workforce here have, it seems, been caught out by the strategies of their transnational owners, who are moving to less labour intensive technology.
Vanstar Ireland shut down its beef processing plant in Leitrim, blaming the BSE crisis. 45 jobs were lost here, smaller than other closures announced but the job losses will have a huge impact on an already strained local economy. Vanstar was the only factory in Jamestown.
Promises of ``across the board job cuts at Gateway'' will create some anxious moments for the company's 1,700 Irish employees. The personal computer seller plans to cut its global workforce by 10%. The cuts come on the back of financial results well below expectations.
Management at Gateway's Irish plant in Clonshaugh refused to let staff talk to journalists but have promised to help any staff let go find jobs in other companies.
However noble these gestures are, they do nothing to empower workers to exert some control over their employment. One Thermo King worker summed up this dilemma. He said: ``For the past 12 years the company has made millions. Now they just announce a decision from faceless people in America. We were promised a future.''
The IDA announced another year of record job creation figures earlier this month but at the same time predicted 8,000 jobs would be lost in companies it supported over the coming year.
Their strategy is a simple one, as long there are more long-term jobs being created than are being lost, everything is rosy. How this affects workers with mortgages and families to raise does not enter into the economic policy equation.
There is still the nagging question. What if as much funds and effort were put into promoting and developing indigenous business as are put into attracting international companies to Ireland? Then perhaps, the communities in which these businesses were sited would have a better sense of long term security than is currently the case with our short stay international tourists.
Or do we really have to lose 8,000 jobs before that reality hits home in the Dublin Government policy-making process.