One of Ireland's biggest employers, pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, today announced plans to lay off hundreds of workers here and sell off three of its Irish plants.

Pfizer said it plans to cut 275 jobs at its Newbridge plant in Co Kildare as it plans to exit the manufacture of oral contraceptives there. 770 jobs will remain at the plant.

Pfizer also said it wants to exit operations from its solid-dose plant in Loughbeg, Co Cork, its biotechnology plant in Shanbally, which is also in Co Cork and its aseptic facility in Dun Laoghaire in Co Dublin. These moves will take place over the next 18 months to five years.

210 jobs could be lost at Dun Laoghaire, 225 at Loughbeg and 75 at Shanbally if a buyer is not found for the facilities.

Read the full Pfizer statement here

The company said it is committed to making a 'concerted effort' to sell the sites it proposes to close as ongoing operations.

'We have been successful in this regard before having recently sold our animal health plant in Sligo and our Loughbeg API plant, preserving jobs at both locations,' Paul Duffy, the company's vice president of manufacturing for primary care and oncology, said.

It also said it is planning further capital investment and new positions at its biotechnology operations in Ireland. Its manufacturing sites are located at Askeaton, Grange Castle, Little Island and Ringaskiddy in Co Cork as well as Newbridge.

The company said it would cut 6,000 jobs, or 18% of its global workforce jobs, at its 78 manufacturing plants over the next five years as it consolidates operations following last year's purchase of smaller rival Wyeth.

Pfizer said in a statement today that it would cease operations at eight plants in Ireland, Puerto Rico and the US by late 2015 and reduce activities at six factories in those countries as well as in Germany and Britain.

Pfizer had 40 manufacturing sites before acquiring more than three dozen Wyeth facilities in the October merger.

Pfizer is counting on savings from the Wyeth merger to help offset expected plunging sales of its $12 billion-a-year Lipitor cholesterol fighter, which begins facing generic competition late next year.

On its Irish plans, Pfizer said it plans to exit its Dun Laoghaire plant from the end of 2011 to 2014. It says its aseptic drug product will be transferred first, followed later by bioprocessing, which is to be moved to Grange Castle.

It said it is closing its Loughbeg site as its only product - Lipitor - is approaching loss of exclusivity. Operations there are expected to cease by early 2012.

The company is due to leave its Shanbally plant by early 2013 pending the launch of its tanezymab product, regulatory approval and technology transfer milestones.

It said its Newbridge site will now focus on specialised technology with the potential to transfer up to five new products to the plant. The 275 job cuts will be phased out by the end of 2010 until 2014. The main cuts will be made in 2013, it added.

Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation, Batt O'Keeffe, said he deeply regretted the job losses announced today. He said the Government's priority would be to provide training and re-employment services to the 275 workers losing their jobs in Newbridge, Co Kildare, and to work with Pfizer to save the other 510 jobs at risk.

The Minister said he had asked IDA Ireland to begin a search for other major players in the life science sector to take over the facilities being closed by Pfizer.

Fears for some Boston Scientific jobs

Boston Scientific workers in Galway fear that there will be further jobs cuts as management continues to meet employee representatives. The medical device manufacturer currently employs around 2,800 people at the facility in Galway.

It Is understood that the job losses will affect 85 skilled employees including engineers, technicians and supervisors.

A spokesperson for Boston Scientific said it was company policy not to comment on the workforce. 'It is normal for manufacturing numbers to go up and down, that is normal industry practice,' the spokesperson said.

The move comes just three months after the company announced 175 full-time and part-time job cuts. It is expected that full details of the latest redundancies will be announced to staff in the coming weeks.