DUBLIN, Ireland (AP) — Global soft drinks giant Coca-Cola Inc. announced plans Wednesday to shut down one of its three plants in Ireland and trim 166 jobs.
The Atlanta-headquartered maker of Coke, Sprite and scores of other drinks said it was shifting its production of concentrates from its 30-year-old plant in Drogheda, north of Dublin, to two other Irish plants to boost efficiencies and save costs.
In a statement, Coca-Cola said 256 jobs would be cut in Drogheda, but 90 jobs would be created at the other two plants in Ballina, County Mayo — in Ireland's far west — and Athy, County Kildare — southwest of Dublin.
The company said boosting production at those two bases would be ''sufficient to meet the current and future demand for concentrate and beverage base supply from Ireland.''
Hugo Reidy, general manager of the Drogheda plant, said it would close in September 2008. Workers who didn't want to relocate to other Coca-Cola plants in Ireland would receive ''a generous redundancy and early retirement package together with financial advice, job search, re-training and business start-up assistance,'' he said.
Labour union leaders accused Coca-Cola of mounting the action to close down a plant with union-organized workers in favor of the Ballina plant, where workers are not unionized.
Arthur Hall, regional secretary of the Technical, Engineering and Electrical Union that represents many Coca-Cola employees in Ireland, called the Drogheda cutbacks ''corporate greed at its worst.''
''This is a highly profitable operation, and it has not lost a day of production in disputes for well over a decade. The only reason why it is moving its main production to Ballina that I can see, is that it has a nonunionized work force there and can ensure less of its profits stay in the local economy,'' Hall said.
For the past three decades the Drogheda plant has produced concentrates for drinks that are distributed to bottling plants throughout Europe.
Ireland's trade and employment minister, Micheal Martin, said he regretted Coca-Cola's cutbacks but thanked the company for offering generous layoff payments and other support. He said the government also would offer those who lost jobs retraining opportunities.
Coca-Cola said it would keep open its shared services center in Drogheda, which employs more than 110 people and offers support to company operations worldwide. The planned cuts would leave Coca-Cola with 540 employees in Ireland.