POLITICIANS in West Limerick reacted with “shock” and “dismay” at a sudden announcement by Nestlé that 542 jobs at its Askeaton baby food manufacturing plant (Wyeth Nutritionals) are in peril.
Fianna Fáil TD Niall Collins pledged that the Government “will leave no stone unturned” in supporting the workers who he said were now facing into a “grim” winter.
“I’m shocked to hear of it, it’s been a very successful multinational employer and has changed ownership over the years and moved with the times – it’s a huge blow to West Limerick, Limerick, and the wider region and I would be very concerned for the 542 workers,” Deputy Collins said.
“As a Government, we will do everything we can, we will leave no stone unturned in terms of supporting the workers over the next number of months.”
“Nestlé are blaming China, it (baby food) is a global commodity and China is facing into a recession, that’s known globally.”
“I’m shocked and hugely concerned. I’m thinking firstly that there is a lot of workers with young families, with mortgages, so it’s grim news to get at this time of year, but we will do our best to support them,” added the Limerick TD.
Local Fine Gael councillor Adam Teskey said he was “dismayed” when he heard the news breaking this evening.
Cllr Teskey said, as far as he knew, Neatlé’s announcement was “completely unexpected”.
“It is a propelled blow to our area that was completely unexpected, and my thoughts are with the workers, the management team, and anyone who is employed through it,” Cllr Teskey said.
“It is a massive blow for the Askeaton and West Limerick area and it will take years to absorb and come to terms with.”
“There would be non-essential workers too and contractors employed there also. We must not forget those workers so there’s more than the 542 facing uncertainty.”
Cllr Teskey appealed to the Government to “put in place an emergency rescue package and look to protect these workers’ jobs”.
“The Government need to try and step in here and see if there is any recourse to try and retrieve the plant from the brink at this stage.
“I would encourage all political parties to immediately work on this, and I would ask both the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste, in particular, to prioritise efforts here because this is a severe hammer blow and we weren’t expecting it.”
The knock on impact will have far reaching consequences for the local economy, said Cllr Teskey.
“As the Neatlé plant is a commercial rate-payer to the local authority, this is going to have a significant consequences to the local budgetary system,” he added.
Informed sources said the commercial rates from the Askeaton plant were worth in the region of half a million euro annually to Limerick City and County Council.
When contacted for comment, a Council spokesman confirmed: “The total is €487,796.80 rates per annum”.