DONEGAL TIMES

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June 28th 2006

I know I’ve heard it before -
but please tell me again -
how did Bennett get sole
bidding rights to the Mart?

So the ownership of the old mart has now been decided. Subject to certain conditions that you can read on page 8, Bennett Construction will take possession of the prime town centre site. Though voted over to the Westmeath developer by over 70% of the shareholders at a meeting held in the Millpark Hotel on June 14th, there are members who feel that their greatest asset was given away. “It was worth at least three times what Bennett paid for it” a disgruntled lady told the Times next day - a sentiment echoed by many. Indeed, there can’t have been a businessman, or an ex-member of that fraternity, who didn’t leave this meeting baffled at the decision of the committee, backed by the majority of members, to revert back to a single bidder, instead of throwing the site onto the open market.
Well, be that as it is, it’s too late for tears now - but why the site wasn’t put up for public auction to let all developers interested fight it out, will never be known. If the shares attain a true market value, which could happen if one of the suggestions made by the mart auditor at the meeting is taken up, members may regret not seeking the best price possible for the site. There is a big difference between a share being worth €7,000 compared to €20,000.
However taking the deal as now being a fait accompli, let us hope that the Bennett people will not look on Donegal Town as just another development in a portfolio that stretches throughout Ireland, United Kingdom and the continent. The most important word used by Bennett’s Project manager John White in his presentation, was ‘Masterplan’ in relation to how the mart and other local Bennett projects would fit into the overall infrastructure of the town. Let us hope this complementary type development will be implemented and that whatever is constructed at the Mullans, Mart, Tullyearl and Drumlonagher will not just be functional but also aesthetically pleasing.
However, the computerised image of the units at Mullans and Tullyearl do not inspire confidence that this will be so. Because a building is a store or a mart doesn’t mean it has to be ugly. What goes on in a building should have no bearing on how it appears to the beholder on the outside.
One thing is for certain - let us hear no more about the impoverished farmer - particularly if he/she holds shares in the mart. Anyone prepared to forgo a potential small fortune to sell to a single bidder should no longer be allowed put on a poor mouth.

Hospira begins to implement redundancy scheme
85 employees to leave next Friday

The reality of the Hospira announcement last August, to close its factory at Lurganboy by the end of 2006 and move the operations to Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic, will kick in this Friday when 85 employees leave the factory. Even though these are voluntary departures, the predominant feeling among the workforce is sorrow and dismay. One employee told the Times “we have to leave anyway in November so we may as well go now and have the summer months off”.
A spokesperson for Hospira said that from now until the end of November, 550 employees are due to be made redundant. “The 85 finishing on Friday is the first major size group to leave and, in conjunction with our needs, redundancies will probably take place in three phased stages. The first date was over-subscribed. As we are a three shift operation, there are employees from all sectors of the factory leaving this Friday.”
Whilst there are mixed feelings among the workers departing, there is one thing on which they all agree - Hospira was a good employer.
One of the long-time staff availing of the first phase redundancy offer is Marie McMullin who is presently Materials Controller with the company. Marie has worked there for twenty years. She told the Times she cried when the announcement of the closure was made. “I am still in a sort of denial but feel I must embrace the situation. Initially I am looking forward to the break and I intend to go back to work but maybe take a different direction.”
Marie went on to say that Hospira was very family friendly, with shifts to accommodate all workers needs – “During my time there I became a widow in ’93 and the company was very good and the company was very good to me, I went back to Magee College and the plant accommodated me shift-wise, I had three promotions during my time there – I served the company well but they were equally good to me, a great company to work for.”
Another employee, Eileen Campbell, who is a production operator at the plant and has been with the company for nearly eighteen years said she would miss working there but applied for early redundancy to have time out over the summer. “ I made a lot of friends while working in the factory and will miss them, but I want to say how good the company was to work for – time off wasn’t a problem if you needed it. I was devastated when they announced the closure last August - I was in the process of taking a relief training instructor course in Sligo. Time has been a big factor for the workers – it has helped us come to terms and deal with the closure. There was a lot more to Hospira than just the job, the Sports and Social Club was excellent, especially for me when the children were young. I have applied for something else, and, if successful, hope to start in October.”
Not only were Hospira good to their employees but also to Donegal Town. Last January the company donated €25,000 to the new playground as a gesture of goodwill to the community.
In March of this year Abbott Ireland bought back the Lurganboy plant in order to manufacture specialist diabetes care products. With a job potential of 155 over some years, production is due to commence in 2007.
The company recently posted an advert on the Hospira notice board and in the Donegal Democrat launching their new Donegal Operation.
Abbott are presently recruiting for the following – Operations Manager; Manufacturing Team Leader; Planner; Quality Systems Team Leader; Process Engineers; Engineering Technicians; IT Infrastructure & Systems Administrators and Accountant - and promise to recruit additional roles over the coming months.
The positions so far advertised require third level education, and, while some of the present staff of the plant will be eligible, the majority of the Hospira workers don’t have the required qualifications.
The Times contacted John McEnteer, spokesperson for Abbott, who told the paper that the company are very much on schedule and are progressing its plans to start operating in Lurganboy in the first quarter of 2007. “By the end of 2006, we will have 50 staff employed. We have received a good response to the jobs already advertised, with some applications from current Hospira employees. Abbott will be advertising again before the end of the year for personnel, including production workers, and over the next three years we will employ a total of 150.”
Following the announcement of the closure of Hospira, a generous redundancy package was agreed – seven weeks per year of service, including statuary entitlements. Senior Branch Organizer with SIPTU Sean O’Reilly said it was the best ever given in the county. “Workers are happy with the redundancy package, but not with losing their jobs. They are pleased that Abbott has purchased the factory but it is only a small number of positions and government ministers should be doing more to provide replacement jobs for the workers”.
Meanwhile Bank of Ireland is one step ahead - they are pre-empting a rush on Friday, following the distribution of the redundancy cheques and have issued a circular to the Hospira workers that they have a private room available at the branch to accommodate plant customers, with manager Declan Sherlock or Brendan Malone on hand to give advice and assistance.
Good luck to all who are leaving this week. Enjoy the summer break and we hope that opportunities arise afterwards that go some way to filling the void that the closure of Hospira has opened.


The Donegal Times, The Diamond, Donegal Town, Ireland

Tel: +353-74-9722860 Fax: +353-74-9722937

e-mail: mail@donegaltimes.com


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