Tánaiste Brian Cowen has told the Dáil that Enterprise Ireland has been in constant contact with Waterford Wedgwood regarding the current issues facing the company.

Mr Cowen said the company spoke to its workers yesterday seeking voluntary redundancies.

Some 500 jobs could be lost over the next 18-24 months at the factory.

Mr Cowen said it was obviously a very disappointing development for workers and their families, but added that around 300 jobs were lost in Dungarvan two years ago and alternative employment was found for 280 workers.

Unions fear that between 450 and 500 jobs could be hit in a restructuring initiative planned by the company's management.

Despite a series of cash injections, the slumping value of the dollar is eating away at how much Waterford Wedgwood gets for its products.

At its AGM last month Chairman Tony O'Reilly said there would be a root and branch overhaul of the company globally.

The company, which employs 1,000 in Waterford, is in talks with a major investor about raising €50m to finance the restructuring.

In a further jobs blow to Waterford it was announced that 110 temporary jobs are being lost at eye-care company Bausch & Lomb.

The company employs 1,700 people on the IDA Industrial estate in the city and says it hopes over the coming months to re-employ many of those now losing their jobs.