Carrickmacross was stunned by the unexpected announcement a week ago that the Bose factory is to close in April with the loss of 140 jobs. Now a government Minister has been asked to intervene to establish if the decision by the US-based multinational can be reversed or deferred to give the state agencies an opportunity to seek a replacement business. The news came as a shocking New Year blow for several mortgage holders, and family members, dependent on a weekly wage from the Bose plant. People like Pat McNally from Corduff, who has worked at the plant from the day it was opened in October 1978.
Immediately after the revelation, local political leaders, as well as civic, community, and local authority representatives began to explore what steps they might take to have the shut-down deferred. A number of efforts are underway, at state agency level, to attract replacement jobs. Three TDs from Cavan/Monaghan, Arts Minister Heather Humphreys, Caoimghín O Caolaín and Brendan Smith met the Minister for Enterprise, Jobs and Innovation, Richard Bruton, at his office in Dublin on Tuesday afternoon. They were accompanied by senior staff from the Industrial Development Authority and Enterprise Ireland. Mr Bruton gave them a commitment he would seek a direct meeting with the Human Resources executive from Bose, Barry Weaver, who is due to return to Carrickmacross in the next 24 hours. Mr Weaver was one of two US-based management representatives who came to County Monaghan a week ago to break the news to the workforce, who had assembled in the canteen to watch a video link. They were expecting the usual quarterly update from the company President. Even the local management had been unprepared for the sudden statement that was read out, announcing that the plant would close in April, after nearly 37 years in Carrick.
Mr O Caoláin said it might be necessary for Mr Bruton to seek a meeting with the top level of the Bose Corporation in the United States. The initial request to the company would be that it reverses the decision, but if it was unwilling to change its mind, then a deferral of the closure should be sought, he told the Northern Standard. The proposed April date left a very narrow window for any alternative investor, either foreign or indigenous, to be found. The workers in South Carolina had been given nearly eight months before that Bose facility is shut down. Heather Humphreys said the IDA had not been given any advance notification of the company’s plans. She said she would be working with all the constituency representatives to try to persuade Bose not to close but she said it would be wrong to raise any false hopes for the workers at this stage. Brendan Smith said they needed to send out a strong message to the Bose Board and President that the decision, which had left the highly-skilled workforce devastated, needed to be overturned.
Following the meeting between Oireachtas members from Cavan/Monaghan and the Enterprise Minister, a briefing was held at Leinster House in the office of Sean Conlan TD for a delegation from Monaghan County Council, led by the Cathaoirleach, Cllr Padraig McNally. He was accompanied by Councillors PJ O’Hanlon, Colm Carthy, Aidan Campbell and Paudge Connolly. Senator Diarmuid Wilson also attended as did the Director of Services of Monaghan County Council, Paul Clifford, and John McEntegart, Head of Monaghan Local Enterprise Office. Mr Clifford later revealed that the factory site set up by the IDA in 1978 is no longer owned by the Authority, but is in private hands and remains under lease to Bose.
A copy of the 290-word statement announcing that US and Irish jobs would be ‘eliminated’ was issued to local public representatives and the media by an international PR company in Dublin on behalf of Bose. It stated bluntly:
“Bose Corporation has announced it will be consolidating its wholly-owned manufacturing operations, closing its facilities in Columbia, South Carolina, and Carrickmacross, Ireland, to streamline the company’s global supply chain. Operations in South Carolina will continue until September 2015; operations in Ireland will continue until April 2015. During that time, both workforces will be reduced, and work will transfer to other Bose facilities around the world with duplicative capabilities.
The Columbia, South Carolina facility opened in 1996 and currently has approximately 300 Bose employees. It houses a North American distribution/repair center, and does sub- and final-assembly for some headsets, and some remanufacturing for the region. A final decision on a new location for distribution/repair has not yet been made; other operations will transfer to Bose facilities in Arizona and Mexico. All jobs at the Bose South Carolina campus will be eliminated.
The Carrickmacross, Ireland facility opened in 1978 and currently has approximately 140 Bose employees. It provides final assembly for select home theater systems and Wave® radios for the European market, and some remanufacturing for the region. Operations will transfer to Bose facilities in Malaysia and Mexico. All work will cease at the Bose Ireland facility. Impacted employees have been informed, and all employees who lose their jobs based on these actions will receive outplacement services and severance support.
‘Our rapid global growth requires us to keep pace with our customers, dealers, distributors, resellers and stores, and serve them as efficiently as possible,’ said Bryan Fontaine, executive vice president of global operations and corporate development engineering. ‘But these are still difficult decisions because they impact our very capable teams in South Carolina and Ireland. We thank all of them for their dedication, and we thank the communities of Columbia and Carrickmacross for their years of support.’
SIPTU Manufacturing Division Organiser Jim McVeigh said that when the workers were informed by management last Thursday the plant was to close, it came as a complete bolt out of the blue. It was devastating news for staff, their families and the wider community. Workers were given a day off on Friday. At a packed meeting in the Nuremore Hotel on Monday evening, SIPTU representatives briefed local politicians on the situation and enlisted their support in the union’s efforts to save the jobs. Mr McVeigh added: “the vast majority of the workforce live in County Monaghan and the plant closure will have a very significant negative impact on the local economy. He said the union was committed to doing everything possible to protect the interests of the workforce.
The atmosphere at the Nuremore was in complete contrast to the gathering there in October 1978, when 150 guests enjoyed a sumptuous reception and luncheon, marking the official opening of the plant by the then Education Minister, the late John Wilson TD. The plant was first blessed by the local Parish Priest. Further details of how the IDA originally set itself a target of creating 4000 new manufacturing jobs in the North East region at the time can be found in Carrickmacross News.
BOSE which has its headquarters at Framingham in Massachusetts was founded by a college Professor of Electrical Engineering and classical music enthusiast Dr Amar Bose in 1964. Before he died in 2013, Dr. Bose donated a majority stake in his company to MIT, the Boston school where he earned three degrees in engineering and taught a course in acoustics. The company employs around 10,500 people internationally and has sales of $3.3 billion.
Carrickmacross provides final assembly for select home theatre systems and radios for the European market, as well as some remanufacturing for the region. It was chosen by the US company because of the local expertise in furniture making. Bose developed wooden cabinets for their high-fidelity speakers and these were sourced in County Monaghan. The US company’s presence attracted a spin-off for local suppliers.
The factory closure whilst having a direct impact on the 140 staff will also affect those who supply services for the plant, such as printers and couriers. This was one of the main concerns on the streets of Carrickmacross during the past week. Local people are waiting to see whether any of the initiatives promised by the politicians will bear fruit over the coming days.