Consumer goods giant Unilever, which employ 400 people in Ireland, plans to cut around 20,000 jobs, or about 11% of its workforce, over the next four years as part of a drive to accelerate its recovery programme.

The Anglo-Dutch company plans to close or streamline around 50 of its 300 manufacturing sites and to reduce its regional centres to 25 from around 100, a spokesman said. The company said that most of the job cuts would be in Europe, but declined to be more specific.

A statement from Unilever in Ireland said no details of the effect on each country were available yet. The move is not thought likely to have a big effect in Ireland, however, as only around 15 staff are involved in manufacturing, with most working in areas such as sales, marketing and distribution.

Unilever Ireland employs 400 in Citywest, Dublin and in Carrigaline, Co Cork. It announced its intention to close its Goldenbridge, Dublin manufacturing centre last September.

The announcement came as Unilever increased its 2007 sales forecast after a strong second quarter and said it planned to speed up its recovery by selling off slower growth businesses and making more cost savings.