MORE than 500 jobs are in danger following a meeting between staff and management at the Wyeth factory in Askeaton this afternoon, announcing that the plant is to be closed.
Operations were suspended and contractors on the premises told to go home before the meeting, where representatives of owners, Nestlé, announced a proposal to close the plant by the first quarter of 2026.
A co-located research and development centre would also shut by the first quarter of 2025 under the proposals.
It’s planned to relocate production from Askeaton to existing plants in China and Switzerland. Management issued a statement after the meeting saying: “We will now consult with all employees and their representative unions.”
“Regrettably, today’s announcement means approximately 542 colleagues will be placed at risk of redundancy.”
Nestlé bought the infant nutrition manufacturing plant from Pfizer Nutrition in 2012 and now operates as Wyeth Nutritionals Ireland Ltd.
A drop in demand for its products in China is being blamed for the downturn in the plant’s fortunes.
“To adapt to those changes, we are proposing to transfer the production from Askeaton to two existing factories – Suzhou, Mainland China and Konolfingen, Switzerland,” the company said.
“Konolfingen is also home to Wyeth and Nestlé Nutrition’s global R&D centre of excellence for infant and maternal products.”
“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.”
The company added that the proposals have been carefully considered and are no reflection on the excellent contribution made by its employees in Askeaton over many years.
Nestlé said it had tried to find a buyer for the plant, but its efforts have been unsuccessful.
However, it added that during the consultation period with staff it will remain open to approaches from “a credible buyer”.
“We regret the uncertainty this announcement will cause our colleagues and their families, and we will make sure they are supported fully throughout this process,” it added.