The devastating news that Tralee’s Borg Warner plant is to close next year, with the loss of all 210 jobs, has come as a complete shock to workers; the local community and to Government agencies including the IDA.
On Tuesday afternoon staff at the plant in Monavalley Industrial Estate were called to a ‘town hall’ meeting with management who delivered the news every worker dreads.
Most work at the plant – which has been manufacturing motor parts in Tralee since it was established as Beru in 1986 – is to be wound down by Christmas and the plant will shut completely by March 2021.
The company said the decision wasn’t related to the Coronavirus and was a result of “declining customer demand for air heaters, which no longer supports the need for a standalone manufacturing facility.”
While the US firm was not specifically mentioned it is understood the statement refers to electric car giant Tesla.
In 2017 a new ‘cabin heater’ production line was opened at the Tralee plant, creating 50 jobs, with Tesla as the primary customer.
Borg Warner said the decision to shut the plant was part of a “series of market driven adjustments” so the company can remain competitive.
Borg Warner Tralee Managing Director Anton Diaz said it had been “a difficult day for everyone at BorgWarner Tralee”.
“This facility has been part of this community for over 30 years and the leadership team is very grateful to all employees for their dedication and contribution,” said Mr Diaz.
“The company sincerely regrets this development and, in the event of redundancies, will endeavour to provide a financial package and supports to the 210 impacted employees which recognises their service and commitment to BorgWarner Tralee,” he added.
SIPTU said its members were shocked and very upset.
The trade union said it has scheduled an urgent meeting with management on Thursday to discuss the closure and if anything can be done to save the jobs.
The news appeared to take the IDA completely by surprise with staff at the development agency seemingly entirely unaware of Borg Warner’s plans.
Asked for comment an IDA spokesperson said only that it was “a matter for Borg Warner”.
Tralee Chamber Alliance Chief Executive Ken Tobin said the news was devastating and expressed his sympathy with everyone affected.
“This news couldn’t come at a worse time for the region, it shows that no industry is safe right now,” he said.
“In a week where we see Dublin and Cork gaining 1,000 new Amazon jobs, we know the IDA and Enterprise Ireland can deliver jobs, so we are asking them to prove Tralee is just as important. It’s time to step up to the plate to deliver for us right now,” said Mr Tobin.
Education Minister Norma Foley said she was “extremely disappointed” to hear the news and would be raising it with Tánaiste and Enterprise Minister Leo Varadkar as a matter of urgency.
The Tralee Fianna Fáil TD said it was “very, very sad news for Tralee” and that the immediate focus must be on helping the workers and their families.