600 jobs at 3Com Dublin hang in balance

4 Sep 2003

As if to confirm recent speculation about competition from lower cost locations in the world threatening Ireland’s industrial base, reports just in suggest that 600 jobs at network equipment manufacturer 3Com hang in the balance as the company is to decide within the coming days to pull out of Ireland. The company is expected to relocate its manufacturing operations either back to the US or to a lower cost economy.

3Com, which has been manufacturing network cards, modems and switches in Blanchardstown since 1991, was one of the proudest flagships of the IDA’s coterie of inward investment wins and at its zenith in the late-Nineties employed some 1,100 workers in all divisions from equipment manufacturing to software development and international logistics.

3Com, which flew high in the early years of the internet boom, eventually saw itself bested by competitor Cisco. Now both companies face increasing competition from Dell Computer.

As 3Com’s competitive position and the market for networking supplies deteriorated in tandem, the company last year laid off many of its employees in Santa Clara and around the world. The Irish operation steadily saw its workforce at its state-of-the-art facilities in Blanchardstown fall to 600 people.

Last year, siliconrepublic.com reported that up to 150 workers at the company’s CommWorks carrier equipment unit in Dublin lost their jobs when 3Com decided to shift jobs back to the US and Canada. 3Com is in the process of selling its CommWorks carrier equipment unit to UTStarcom for US$100m in cash. That transaction, which 3Com said would be completed in the next 30 to 60 days, is a key part of 3Com’s effort to get away from selling equipment to telecom service providers in favour of focusing on corporations.

In May, 3Com decided to move its entire headquarters and manufacturing operations away from its spiritual home in Silicon Valley to the east coast of the US as part of a major restructuring move.

Management and staff at 3Com’s Dublin operations are expecting to hear the final decision within the next few days.

By John Kennedy