Pharmaceuticals company Roche is pulling out of four of its global facilities, including its site in Ennis, Co Clare, with 240 jobs set to go unless a replacement firm is found.
The company’s Ennis site’s 240 employees are now at risk of losing their jobs, with the company looking for a buyer to take on the facility and staff.
It makes for grim news in the area, which is home to Roche’s only manufacturing site in the country – a 90-strong sales operation will remain in Ireland.
The giant pharmaceutical operator is spending around $1.6bn on a major restructuring of its business, with Roche Holding, the parent company, also withdrawing from facilities in Spain, Italy and the US.
The total job losses as part of this “divestment” is 1,200 worldwide, with plans to withdraw from the sites to be completed by 2021.
The news in Ireland appears to have come completely out of the blue at a site that has been in operations for more than 40 years.
SIPTU, which represents more than 40pc of the Ennis workers, said the news came “as a complete shock”, with sector organiser Alan O’Leary saying the surprising move “is of massive concern to all in the local community”.
Roche’s profits, although significant at €9.45m last year, were down €2m on 2013, with revenues plummeting 20pc – a move towards newer medicines being the company’s new focus.
The company’s portfolio is shifting toward biologics, with a new generation of “specialised medicines based on small molecules” requiring a whole new operation.
So much so that Roche Holding is investing in a new Swiss facility, while major investment has gone into its biologics manufacturing capacity in the past two years.
“Today is a very difficult day for everyone on site. Clarecastle has been a significant and successful manufacturing site since 1974 and the proposal for Roche to exit the site is in no way a reflection on the performance of the people or the site,” said Gerry Cahill, MD of Roche Ireland Limited.
“We will do our utmost to support our colleagues during this transition.”