Rush to take redundancy package offered at major Limerick food service distributor

Norma Prendiville

Reporter:

Norma Prendiville

Redundancies: Pallas Foods in Newcastle West

Redundancies: Pallas Foods in Newcastle West

A LARGER than expected number of people have expressed interest in taking voluntary redundancy from Pallas Foods, the Limerick Leader has learned.

Last week, the company announced it was seeking 55 redundancies across all levels in its warehouse section as part of a restructuring. But the Limerick Leader understands that this number had  been exceeded when expressions of interest closed on Monday evening.

The company however declined to confirm this and also declined to answer detailed questions about what kind of package was on offer.

In a brief statement issued this week, a spokesman said: “We are satisfied that the proposed voluntary redundancy programme has been well received in the business. It is a confidential process and we are not in a position to discuss it any further.”

However, he went on to confirm the €2m investment programme for the Newcastle West plant, also announced last week. would commence in early 2019.

“It is to enhance the company’s shared services centre and underpins the company’s commitment to Limerick. 350 jobs will continue to be supported in Limerick and 1,300 on the island of Ireland,” he said.

Local Sinn Fein councillor Seamus Browne has warned  however that the 55 redundancies “signal the start of the closing of warehousing and distribution operations in Newcastle West” .

“Many of the local workforce now fear that the Dublin plant has become the overriding priority for Pallas Foods and that more job losses are on the way,” he said.

“Workers at the plant should not be asked to express an interest in voluntary redundancy without first being made fully aware of the redundancy package,” he added. “I question whether this is in line with the workers rights.”

He had also, he said, “serious concerns over the manner in which the workers affected are being denied representation by a union.”

Cllr Browne pointed out that in 2015, Limerick City and County Council passed a motion he had tabled, calling on Pallas Foods to recognize the workers’ right to be represented by a union following a Labour Court recommendation that the management of Pallas Foods should engage with SIPTU.

The Limerick Leader understands that in its letter to workers last week, the company asked for eight worker representatives to take part in the 30-day statutory consultation process which began this week. But the company did not confirm if this had taken place.

Meanwhile, Minister of State Patrick O’Donovan said he had been in contact with the company following its announcement.

“Any time they reduce numbers, it is regrettable for them. It is something we would prefer not to see,” he said.

But, he added: “The most important thing from my point of view is the long-term commitment to Newcastle West they have given. They are going ahead with this investment programme which puts flesh on the bone of their commitment to Newcastle West.”

Minister O’Donovan also pointed out that in February 2012, unemployment numbers in Newcastle West stood at 3,373. Thanks to the government’s Action Plan on Jobs, this number had fallen to 1,188, a drop of 65% and at a time when the population was also growing.

“We are going in the right direction,” he declared. But, he added: “We won’t take anything for granted.”

Asked about Ortec, the US company which announced it was setting up in Newcastle West two years ago with 100 high-end jobs, Minister O’Donovan said: “The IDA is very happy with the progress made.”

All the regulatory details as well as issues about planning, land acquisition, power supply etc had now been sorted, he said.

“The company has commissioned design consultants here in Limerick and has recruited local people to start the process of building it out,” Minister O’Donovan added.

The company was completing a new facility in South Carolina, he said. This project was nearing completion, the minister added, and when that was done, Newcastle West would be next in line.