Arklow Town Council has called for a Government-led task force to be set up after the announcement that 360 jobs are to be lost in the town.

Pharmaceutical company Allergan announced that it is to close its plant in Arklow by the middle of next year.

The company said economic and operational reasons are forcing it to transfer its production of silicon and saline breast implants from Arklow to a new state-of-the-art facility in Costa Rica.

Allergan General Manager Paul Moody said it was a sad day for the workers and for Arklow.

'Increased demand means that we have to move manufacturing to a site that has a capability to meet this growing demand,' he said.

Workers at the plant have expressed surprise after being told this morning that the factory will be closed by June 2009.

Allergan's fourth quarter financial results, released in the US today, show that it made profits of $673m last year on sales of almost $4bn.

Allergan Pharmaceuticals Ireland is based in Westport in Co Mayo, but also has offices in Dublin and a second manufacturing plant in Arklow.

The Arklow factory mainly manufactures silicone and saline breast implants, but also supplies components to other Allergan facilities worldwide.

Management says the production of breast implants at the Arklow facility will be phased out over two years and transferred to its operation in Costa Rica.

'This decision has been carefully deliberated and while difficult, has been made necessary by the high level of investment required to maintain competitiveness at the Arklow manufacturing location,' commented Raymond Diradoorian, Executive Vice President of Global Technical Operations at Allergan.

Allergan began operations in Arklow in 1989 and just four years ago, the company announced a €7.4m investment which it said would help create 200 extra jobs.

The company also employs over 750 people at its pharmaceutical plant in Westport and about 70 people at its European shared services centre in Dublin.