By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — Cheaper production costs in the Far East is being blamed for the closure next month of the Waterford Ray-Ban sunglasses plant, which was originally set up by Bausch and Lomb 18 years ago and once employed almost 500.
The sunglasses business was sold to the Italian Luxottica company last year and the numbers employed have been steadily reduced since then.
Last week’s announcement that production would completely cease has caused anger in the city. The Italian company had repeatedly given assurances the factory’s future was secure and they would not be pulling out.
In April 1999, when the New York-based Bausch and Lomb sold its sunglasses business for $640 million, the factory employed 340, but a series of "rationalizations" have resulted in layoffs.
Luxottica is now planning to concentrate its lens production in its Hong Kong plant and the Waterford factory will close on June 16 with the loss of the last 91 jobs.
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The Southeast has the second highest unemployment rate in the country, behind the northwest, and unions have called for government action to address the jobs deficit in the area.