Coffey urges IDA to deliver on jobs in Waterford

5th June 2012 - Senator Paudie Coffey

Fine Gael Waterford Deputy, Paudie Coffey, has urged the IDA to deliver on investment and jobs in Waterford. Deputy Coffey was speaking after the IDA’s South East Regional Manager said that site visits to Waterford and the south east this year by prospective investors have surpassed those carried out during all of 2011.

“News that site visits to Waterford and the south east in the first five months of 2012 have exceeded the total number for 2011 is very positive news for the region; however it is important that these visits now result in real investment and jobs in Waterford.

“Waterford has one of the highest unemployment rates in the State and all Government agencies must pull together and help Waterford and the south east region to create and retain jobs so that we can get our people back to work.

“For my part, I have made a submission to the Oireachtas Committee on Jobs, Social Protection and Education to highlight the unemployment problems in Waterford and the issues that need to be addressed as a matter of priority to rebuild Waterford’s economy in the short, medium and long term.

“The number of site visits in the south east region from potential IDA supported companies this year has reached 15, which is almost one a week. This compares to 14 for the entire of 2011. The IDA has a regional development mandate, whereby it is encouraging companies to invest outside of Dublin and Cork. I am urging the Authority to ensure this mandate is fulfilled and that jobs are delivered in Waterford in the coming months.

“We must address the unemployment problem in the south east and Waterford region and the IDA has a critical role to play. I will continue in my role as a TD for Waterford to fight for the people I serve and I hope that the IDA will play its part in getting Waterford back to work.”
Note to Editors
Please see full submission made to the Joint Oireachtas Committee Jobs, Social Protection and Education.

Submission on Unemployment and Youth Unemployment – Waterford

Unemployment has hit every area of Irish society over the last number of years as a result of a labour intensive property bubble in which many people were employed, unfortunately this property bubble and level of construction for a population of our size was never sustainable.

The wealth that was generated during these years for the Exchequer through increased income tax and stamp duty was misspent and directed towards areas of the economy on the current side, meaning that when these revenue streams for the economy collapsed there was a massive difference between what the Government was spending on a day to day basis and what it was taking in.

This wealth led to a large decrease in our competitiveness and important infrastructure such as broadband was neglected along with our water infrastructure and the cost of doing business during this period increased significantly.

This meant that other labour intensive industries such as manufacturing were also significantly hit at the end of the property crash.

Waterford like most of the country benefitted from the period of full employment at the height of the property bubble; from the period of March 2002 to March 2007 in Waterford the numbers on the live register rose up and down from just under 6,000 persons to 6,500 persons on a regular basis.

However since March 2007 the numbers on the live register in Waterford have increased from 6,281 to 14,289 in March 2012, reaching a peak of 15,614 in July 2010. This represents an increase of 127.5% in persons on the live register in a five year period.

Youth unemployment in Waterford has increased significantly during this time period from a low in November 2004 of 1,018 persons under the age of 25 to a high 3,184 in July 2009, showing an overall increase of over 200%. Last month youth unemployment in Waterford stood at 2,470, representing 17.29% of persons on the live register in Waterford.

It is quite clear that Waterford has suffered from not just a labour intensive property bubble collapse but also from a collapse in traditional indigenous manufacturing industries.

The following are the list of headline job losses in Waterford in the last four years –

List of Headline Job Losses in Waterford in last 4 years
Business Amount Announcement Made

Waterford Crystal 492 22nd Nov 2007
Kingspan Century 24 18th Jan 2008
Honeywell 100 30th July 2008
Cappoquin Chickens 250 16th Sept 2008
Waterford Crystal 280 16th Oct 2008
Bausch and Lomb 1,400 workers put on half time 29th Jan 2009
Waterford Crystal 480 30th Jan 2009
Bausch and Lomb 195 5th Mar 2009
ABB 178 25th Jun 2009
TEVA Pharma 315 4th Sept 2009
GSK 195 7th Jul 2011
Talk Talk 575 7th Sept 2011
Honeywell 30 13th Jan 2012

Total 3,114 (Doesn’t Include 1,400 workers from Bausch and Lomb on Half Time)

It is quite clear from these figures over the last number of years that many jobs were lost in traditional Waterford businesses as they tried to consolidate during the economic downturn. These are just the headline figures during this period and don’t count any construction job losses in the county or city or indeed any small indigenous service businesses that closed or reduced staff as a result of these announcements.

Waterford, like many other parts of the country, needs to have a strong retraining supports and job activation measures. A leading component of Waterford’s recovery should be Waterford Institute of Technology which is ear-marked in the Programme for Government to become the Technological University for the South East.

The south east is the only region in the country without a university, the region which consists of over 500,000 people; this is leading to a considerable number of young people leaving the region in favour of Cork and Dublin for the prospect of a ‘supposed’ better education.

The lack of a university is also hampering Waterford’s potential to attract investment which is having a significant impact on the unemployment situation in Waterford and the south east. The establishment of a Technological University in the south east is imperative for the long term economic benefit of Waterford and the region.

The unemployment crisis in Waterford and the south east region is not just for one department to fix, it requires a cross departmental and cross agency response. To that end, I want to commend the Minister for Enterprise, Jobs and Innovation for commissioning a ForFas report into the economic strengths and weaknesses of the south east after the job loss announcements at Talk Talk last year.

This also set out what needed to be done by various stakeholders and departments in order to turn the tide of unemployment in Waterford and the south east. I would fully support the full implementation of this report.

I am also somewhat concerned that the new headquarters of the amalgamated Waterford and Wexford VECs will be based in Wexford. The VECs will be utilised in a different manner from how they are currently used and a lot of functions from the new SOLAS agency will be delivered through the VECs.

I commented at the time of the announcement that I was disappointed and surprised that the headquarters for the amalgamated VEC would not be placed in the gateway city in the south east region. I believe that not having the headquarters in Waterford city will hinder the attempts to improve the unemployment situation in Waterford.

As the committee can quite clearly see, Waterford has had a greater proportion of job losses since the economic downturn in relation to the size of its workforce and, as such, a specific effort must be made to ensure that Waterford, Ireland’s fifth largest city, is not left behind in any economic upturn and that weaknesses and deficiencies that have been allowed to be developed over time are corrected so that there is long term stability and prosperity in Waterford city and county.
I trust the Committee will take on board my comments and suggestions that I have made in relation to the publication of any report into unemployment or youth unemployment.

Yours sincerely,

Paudie Coffey TD

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