Element Six says it has decided to close its manufacturing and distribution activities at its site in Shannon, Co Clare, with the loss of around 370 jobs. But the company says it will stay in business at Shannon, keeping 80 jobs in areas such as research and development, customer services and support.

Element Six, formerly known as De Beers, supplies diamond supermaterials used for a wide range of activities in the oil and gas, car, construction and mining industries.

It says today's decision is the result of a strategic review of its global manufacturing operations to improve its competitiveness.

Element Six says the Shannon operation has the highest manufacturing costs in the group. 'Despite a series of cost reduction programmes in the past few years, continued production at the Shannon site is no longer sustainable or viable, and the primary business it serves is loss-making,' a statement said.

The company added that the current economic downturn had exacerbated the problems, and that it considered other options 'at length'.

Element Six will start winding down the manufacturing and distribution operations by the end of the year.

Element Six is one of the biggest and longest established companies in Shannon, and once employed more than 600 people.

SIPTU organiser Mary O'Donnell has criticised the company's redundancy offer, which she says amounts to one week's pay per year of service on top of statutory entitlements. 'On previous occasions the company has given six weeks pay, inclusive of statutory entitlements of two weeks,' she says.

* There was better news for the Shannon region today as Aer Lingus announced that it would add a third daily flight between Shannon Airport and London Heathrow from October 25. Aer Lingus resumed the route last March and said it had been encouraged by the demand for the service.