Pharmaceutical Chemical and Medical Devices Sector

This Sector represents workers in all grades within the pharmaceutical, chemical and medical devices industry. In terms of exports the pharmaceutical, chemical and medical devices sector currently generates over 59% of the Republic of Ireland’s exports.

Within the medical devices industry 24,000 workers are employed in 160 companies, 90 of these are indigenous to Ireland. Ireland has the highest number of people per captia working in the medical devices industry in Europe and is the second largest exporter (only behind Germany) of Medical devices in Europe.

Within the pharmaceutical and chemical industry 25,000 workers are employed, 90% within Foreign Owned Multi- National Corporations (MNC’s). Ireland is the largest net exporter of medicines in the world. Eight out of top ten global MNC’s operate in Ireland and ten of top selling pharmacological drugs are manufactured here.

SIPTU has over the last 20 years developed very positive and progressive relationships with many MNC’s including, Pfizer, Teva, Medtronic, Stryker, Becton Dickinson, Covidien, Baxter, Bristol Myers Squibb, Roche, Leo Pharma, Cara Partners, Astellas, Procter and Gamble, Schering Plough, Abbot, GSK, Janssen, Novartis, Bausch and Lomb.

Sector Organiser: Alan O’Leary (01-8794318 / 087 2353665)


Admin Assistant: Maire Sheehan (01- 8794316)



Alan O’Leary, Sector Organiser










Industrial Organisers

 Official Contact Numbers Email Location
Michelle Quinn 087-7983612/01-8586478 Liberty Hall

Assistant Industrial Organisers 

 Offical Contact Numbers Email Location
Allen Dillon 087-6655091/01-8586340 Waterford
Paul DePuis 087-9262392/01-8794315 Cork
Jim Fuery  087-9502178 Newbridge
Ashling Dunne  087-3666485/01-8586326 Sligo


Pharmaceuticals, Chemicals & Medical Devices Sector Committee

Brendan Cremin

Brian Keating

Eamonn Thornton

Enda McDaid

Jemma Mackey

Gale Prince

Pat Perry

Aidan McDonnell

Brian Murphy

Yolanda Hughes

Kieran O’Connor

Jim Fuery

Christopher Crowley

Margaret McNulty

Liz Dolan

Pat Dineen


Pharmaceutical Chemical and Medical Devices Sector reach Collaboration Agreement with Jim Kemmy School of Business University Limerick


UL signing

General President, Jack O’Connor, Prof Paddy Gunnigle, UL, Jemma Mackey, Sector Ptresident, Alan O’Leary, Sector Organiser, Tom Turner Head of Dept Kemmy Business School

The Sector concluded a Collaboration Agreement with the  Jim Kemmy School of Business University Limerick on areas of common interest such as  industrial relations in MNC’s, human resources research, presentations and lectures as well as promoting further education in the field of Collective Bargaining and Workplace Negotiation Theory and Practice. The General President Jack O’Connor, Alan O’Leary Sector Organiser and Jemma Mackey Sector President signed the agreement on behalf of the Union at a formal signing ceremony in the Jim Kemmy School.


Jemma Signing

Jemma Mackey, Sector President, signing collaboration agreement

Sector Organiser Alan O’Leary said that “This Collaboration Agreement arose out of a visit to the college by the Sector Committee in 2010 where we held our Sector Committee meeting in the Jim Kemmy School of Business and held talks with the staff of the Department of Personnel & Employee Relations regarding common areas of interest. The Sector Committee resolved that we had to convey a positive narrative within education institutions regarding the positive aspects of trade union representation. Therefore, it was agreed that as the Jim Kemmy School is an internationally recognised centre of excellence for Human Resources the sector would explore the establishment of a formal Collaboration Agreement with the Department of Personnel & Employee Relations.


The Agreement provides a very solid foundation for the Sector to provide part-time and full-time Degree and Master student’s with a positive and an alternative view of trade unions. We have held a number of lectures in the Kemmy School to outline our Sectors strategy on 2% pa Stability and Pay Agreements and students have responded very positively. Alan O’Leary added that this agreement is just the beginning of our work in telling our positive story within the broader community and the sector committee is very pleased with the ratification of this agreement as it fully supports the development of further ties with important educational institutions such as University Limerick”.



Pfizer News Ringaskiddy Cork

Pfizer announced major job cuts in June 2012, due to a number of factors the company intended to make significant job cuts at its plant in Ringaskiddy Cork. The three main drivers for restructuring were a realignment within the broader Active Primary Ingredients (API) manufacturing base where there is a general move away from blockbuster bulk drugs moving towards smaller volume and associated reduced production steps. The challenges of the patent expiry cliff for some major drugs such as Lipitor and Sildenafil (Viagra) and a shifting of on- patent drugs to low cost economies such as Singapore which incur zero corporation tax for on- patent products. Pfizer announced a total of 177 redundancies with 129 Ringaskiddy and 48 in Little Island. More recently the company announced that it was exiting the Little Island business through a potential sale or closure in late 2014.

Over the past number of years Pfizer has reduced its footprint in Ireland with the closure of Inchera and Loughbeg (tablet plant) and sales of Loughbeg API, its nutritional business in Askeaton Co Limerick and the Biopharmaceutical plant in Shanbally. However, this was the first occasion that compulsory redundancies were proposed at the Ringaskiddy site. The Ringaskiddy site is iconic within the Pfizer network as it was the original location of investment by Pfizer in Ireland in 1969.

SIPTU engaged with Pfizer in June 2012 and maintained that each job cut would be “forensically” scrutinised with a view to minimising the depth of the proposed compulsory redundancies. Following a general meeting of members the unions mandate was to save as many jobs as possible, this was overwhelmingly endorsed by the members and negotiations commenced in July 2012. However, the Union’s negotiating approach was fundamentally different to all other previous engagements, rather than negotiate on numbers from an adversarial industrial relations approach the union committee adopted the priority of retaining jobs though role enhancements, operational changes and co-operation with change. This is in line with the concept developed by SIPTU’s Manufacturing Division’s Innovation in manufacturing policy through the IDEAS Institute and the Dublin Declaration (see attached)

The SIPTU manufacturing division policy on innovation essentially focuses on encouraging role enhancement through operational innovation and co-operation with change at a fundamental level. This requires a complete rethink from the traditional adversarial approach of trading and negotiating on the number of job cuts. We have found that employers using the scalpel approach to cut jobs looks attractive as an accounting exercise reported on a quarterly shareholders report however we contend that this accounting exercise on occasions merely addresses short term financial goals. While it’s a given that production volumes dictate key resources beyond this we contend that there is absolutely no long term cost savings dividend in cutting jobs. After all the goal of all enterprises is to grow their business once productivity improves rehiring occurs with the exact same competitive factors. The long term human effect of losing a quality job is absolutely devastating for the worker, their dependents the local community and indeed it’s a hit for the Government through reduced tax revenue. Therefore, there is no social good to cutting jobs in a depressed economy. The economic crises forces us to rethink our industrial relations approach and the innovation in manufacturing model is the key to better long term solutions. Adopting the innovation in manufacturing approach provides an opportunity for employers to reach an accommodation and consensus agreement with unions on cost savings through operational innovation. The costs savings associated with operational innovation can be substantial and could cause a fundamental rethink by senior management in MNC’s HQ’s concerning the level of rationalisation required. Site competitiveness or put more succinctly the ability to produce goods at a more competitive price can be better achieved by retaining posts through role expansion/enhancements and operational innovation.   The benefit in this approach is not just short-term but long term competitive gains are achieved where employers can substantially reduce the cost of running their plant and strategically position themselves to become the prime location of choice for further investment within their networks.  This is a win- win approach whereby the employer yields long term competitive gains and the workers retain their quality jobs and a social good is realised. The Pfizer Ringaskiddy agreement which was brokered with the tremendous assistance of Kevin Foley and Damien Cannon of the Labour Relations Commission has been described as a “transformational agreement” whereby the original number of job cuts have been substantially reduced as a direct result of agreement on operational innovation and fundamental change.

Alan O’Leary sector organiser stated that this transformational agreement reduced the proposed job cuts by a substantial and real amount and we hope that the final figures will reduce even further as we continue to engage with Pfizer locally to explore other innovation options at further reducing the depth of proposed job cuts. One can argue that the positions that have been saved as a result of this ground breaking agreement impacts all of the roles in the entire plant. There remains mainly challenges in the industry with patent expiry etc, however we hope that this agreement reasserts the fact that in the Pharmaceutical sector Ireland can compete with the best in terms of highly skilled and committed workers and this agreement also enhances our ability to compete with lower cost economies for investment. We are hoping that as a direct result of this transformational agreement that senior management at Pfizer HQ will reconsider moving on-patent product to Singapore as the product can now be made in Ireland at a much more competitive price.

While as part of this agreement there are still jobs cuts these are unavoidable as they are directly aligned to volume decline. There are workers with over ten years services proposed to leave the Ringaskiddy site which is deeply regrettable however after 10 months of very difficult negotiations our members took a very difficult but mature and necessary decision to accept fundamental operational changes to secure as many of the remaining jobs as possible. This transformational agreement now positions the Ringaskiddy site as a prime location of choice within the wider Pfizer network and as a result of this agreement it can also now compete more competitively with lower cost economies. The real litmus test for this new innovation approach and transformational agreement in Pfizer Ringaskiddy will be the ability of management to attract new business into Ringaskiddy over the coming years. SIPTU will be obviously watching this very closely.

Concluding Alan O’Leary sector organiser stated that obviously in terms of jobs growth all sectors of the economy are important including the contribution of many small to medium indigenous firms which are the lifeblood of many communities however the Pharmaceutical and Medical Devices industry is crucial to Ireland’s current economic recovery. The sector contributes over 55% of Ireland total exports (Pharmaceutical sector over 50 billion pa) nine out of the top ten global Multi- National Corporations (MNCs) operate manufacturing subsidiaries here, and the sector provides 60,000 high quality jobs. It is my view that if Ireland is to recover from the economic depression we cannot afford to lose these high quality jobs in manufacturing and through the innovation in manufacturing approach industry stakeholders can reach an acceptable compromise in achieving agreed cost savings while providing a long term social good by retaining quality jobs in the sector.  For every one manufacturing job saved it is estimated that three or possibly four additional indirect jobs in downstream and upstream service providers are also secured.

Jack speaking

Jack O’Connor, addressing guests