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Saturday 2 December 2023 Dublin: 2°C
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540 people face redundancy as Nestlé-owned baby formula plant in Limerick set to close

The plant is expected to fully close by 2026.

LAST UPDATE | Oct 18th 2023, 8:48 PM

NESTLÉ HAS ANNOUNCED that more than 540 workers face redundancy at the Wyeth Nutrition infant formula factory in Askeaton, Co Limerick.

The plant, which was acquired from Pfizer Nutrition by Nestlé in 2012, is expected to close by 2026.

The multinational food company has said its decision was partly due to falling demand for infant formula from China as a result of lower birth rates.

It also says that it will close a research and development centre, which is co-located on the site, by 2025.

“We will now consult with all employees and their representative unions,” a statement by Nestlé said.

“Regrettably, today’s announcement means approximately 542 colleagues will be placed at risk of redundancy.”

The company said that it would move the plant’s operations to Suzhou in mainland China and Konolfingen in Switzerland.

“It is proposed that R&D work at Askeaton would be absorbed into Konolfingen, where 365 colleagues work on research and product development across several disciplines, and a satellite R&D centre in Shanghai would be strengthened.

“These proposals have been carefully considered and are no reflection on the excellent contribution made by our employees in Askeaton over many years.”

The company added that it would engage in a consultation basis with employees on the closure, but that it would remain open to approaches to purchase the plant.

‘Horrendous for workers and families’

Trade union Unite, which represents administrative, technical and craft grades at Wyeth said this evening that workers were shocked to be told the news this afternoon.

Unite is calling on managemet to engage with unions at the earliest opportunity in a bid to examine alternatives to the proposed closure. 

“Union members were particularly disappointed to find that the company chose to communicate their plans to the media before informing unions,” Unite regional coordinating officer Tom Fitzgerald said. 

Representatives from trade union group Siptu have labelled the announcement as “horrendous” and have called for a meeting with the management of the plant.

Sector Organiser Neil McGowan said: “The plant has provided good employment in the area for decades.”

“It is vital that the decision to close is reversed and as many jobs as possible can be maintained on the site,” he said.

Siptu are also calling for immediate government intervention to save the jobs.

Divisional Organiser Greg Ennis said he will be raising matters at a European Federation of Food, Agriculture, and Tourism Executive Committee meeting scheduled for tomorrow in Brussels.

Ennis said he will do so “with a view to engaging with the Nestlé European Works Council”.

Minister for Employment Simon Coveney has said his “first thoughts are with the Wyeth workers and their families as they received this news this afternoon”. 

“It is hugely disappointing news as this facility has provided fantastic employment in Limerick and made a huge contribution to Ireland’s economy,” Coveney said. 

He said officials in his Department will now begin a process of engagement with the management and workers in the company. 

“The full range of state supports will be made available to the employees, and we will examine each and every option to ensure that the best possible outcome is reached for all concerned.” 

Includes reporting from Muiris O’Cearbhaill and Hayley Halpin

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