By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — The French-owned Krups kitchen appliances company is to close its manufacturing plant in Limerick city with the loss of 500 jobs after the collapse of their Russian market and increased Asian competition.
Tanaiste Mary Harney has set up a special task force in a bid to get a replacement firm for the midwest and the shock announcement has raised fears that the global economic turmoil could hit other firms around the country.
Michael Long, the SIPTU branch secretary in Limerick, said the announcement had devastated the city. The average age of the Krups workers is 44, but they were willing to be retrained for a new industry, he said.
He warned that when the full effect of the closure becomes clear, it could result in total jobs losses of up to 1,200 as suppliers, packagers, shops and other businesses will also be hit.
Krups, which was taken over from its German owners by the Moulinex group in 1991, has been in Limerick since 1964 and has been one of the city’s biggest employers.
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Liam McElligott, Krups managing director, said the closure resulted from an "extraordinary turn of events" in recent months which had affected the Moulinex group.
"Basically, the market in Russia, which the group depended on for 10 percent of its total turnover, disappeared completely," McElligott said. "In disappearing it has left some of the plants across the group with a major over-capacity."
A Moulinex recovery plan had already resulted in the loss of 2,600 jobs in France and 500 in Germany in the last two years.
"The current range of measures which are being proposed for presentation to the group’s European works council on Nov. 6 affect Limerick but also affect a wide range of group plants across France," McElligott said.
He said a second Irish Moulinex manufacturing plant GMX in Thurles, Co. Tipperary, employing 250, would not be affected.