COMMENTS made by Irish entrepreneur and The Apprentice host Bill Cullen regarding Dell's decision to leave Limerick have been branded as "offensive" and "disgraceful" by representatives of the former workforce in the Raheen operation.
In an interview with the Sunday Mirror on December 13, Cullen, one of the country's top businessmen, is quoted as saying that "Dell would never have left Limerick if the workers weren't so lazy".
However, Brian Purcell, Mr Cullen's spokesman, said the Apprentice host "never said that".
"Bill said that the reasons Michael Dell pulled out of Limerick were for productivity reasons – obviously he felt he would get more productivity in a lower cost country," explained Mr Purcell.
"That is what he actually said, it was in the context of the Apprentice and everything is about productivity, costs and employees. He never said the workers were lazy."
The comments, as carried in the Sunday Mirror, angered former workers at the plant as they were originally reported. The current and former chairmen of the Dell Redundant Workers Association, set up in the wake of Dell's decision to pull out of Limerick in early 2009, branded the entrepreneur's comments as "ridiculous" and "offensive".
"I find that comment very offensive, without a doubt," said Paul O'Connor, current chairman of the DRWA. "Our workers are finding it very difficult at the moment, and for someone to come out with a comment like that is a total nonsense."
"Speaking on behalf of the 1700 members we have in our organisation, that kind of comment is ridiculous because Dell itself had the best service in the world in their base in Limerick, that is why they stayed there for so long."
Denis Ryan, former chairman of the DRWA –who was very vocal at the time of the announcement of the Dell decision and who worked in the Limerick plant for over 10 years –- reacted angrily to Cullen's remarks this week when they were put to him.
"That is disgraceful. If anything they were too good, the workers out there. Dell didn't deserve the workforce that they had, that is best way to put it," said Mr Ryan.
Close to 1,900 manufacturing jobs were lost at the Dell Raheen plant over the course of 2009, after the computer giant announced their decision to move the manufacturing arm of the operation out of Ireland in January of that year.