BY EMMA CONNOLLY
& KIERAN O’MAHONY
WORKERS at Bantry’s Rowex plant, which is 50% owned by Novartis, have been told their jobs are secure.
The boss of the West Cork pharma, Joe Keane, reassured his 100 staff after Novartis announced 320 job losses in Ringaskiddy on Wednesday, sending shock waves through the sector.
Rowex, the Irish marketing division of Rowa, is a leading provider of generic pharmaceuticals in Ireland. It’s half-owned by Rowa, and half by Novartis, but Mr Keane clarified it trades as a separate company entirely.
‘Our 100 jobs are safe. In fact, we’re expanding all the time and launching new products as they come off patents,’ he said.
The pharma sector has always been especially strong in Cork with a large number of West Cork people employed in the sector in Ringaskiddy.
West Cork is also home to two main players – namely MSD in Brinny and Eli Lily in Dunderrow near Kinsale, where the shock news unsettled their thousands of employees.
Most of the Novartis jobs are to be axed by the end of 2021 with the setting up of ‘centralised operations centers (sic) in Europe and Asia’.
The firm will shut down a production building by 2022. It said the Cork job losses were part of ‘a strategic decision and part of the ongoing evaluation of the Novartis manufacturing network’ around the world.
The news comes at a time which has surprised analysts, given the pharma’s strong performance on markets.
According to news agency Bloomberg, Novartis raised its earnings forecast for the third time this year earlier this week, as new drugs including gene therapy Zolgensma got off to a strong start.
Joe Keane said Rowex was traditionally a ‘training ground’ for Novartis and would know many people who are set to lose their jobs. ‘We are very disappointed for them. It’s also a big blow to Cork and is a major concern to the sector in general,’ he said.
He said increased costs associated with manufacturing in Ireland were creating a very challenging environment in which to do business.
‘We include ourselves in that. And there are also new regulations coming into the market as well, which are contributing to costs,’ he said.
Meanwhile, Senator Tim Lombard (FG) said he hoped the company would maintain a footprint in Ringaskiddy so that in time they may re-visit this issue and re-open the manufacturing base.
‘I have a personal connection with the pharma plant, too, as my late brother Ger worked in manufacturing there for 15 years and I know many other people who work there,’ he said.
‘They have a good reputation and are known to be good employers, so this makes the announcement even more shocking.’