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1,000 jobs go as cuts at leading Northern Ireland firms take effect

By John Mulgrew

Published 19/04/2016

The JTI Gallaher plant in Ballymena
The JTI Gallaher plant in Ballymena

Up to 1,000 manufacturing posts are going in Northern Ireland as job losses at giants of industry JTI Gallaher and Bombardier take effect.

Around 300 Bombardier workers have left the aerospace giant, while a further 100 have been accepted for voluntary redundancy, it has emerged.

That comes following the announcement this year that the firm is slashing more than 1,000 posts.

It’s understood around 300 jobs have already gone across the Belfast operation. Those posts include contractors and casual workers.

But it's believed around 100 other staff are also in for voluntary redundancy at the company.

It comes after Bombardier announced in February it was slashing 580 jobs in Northern Ireland this year and a further 500 by the end of 2017.

It was the latest major blow to Northern Ireland's manufacturing industry and followed similar large-scale announcements, such as tyre maker Michelin which revealed it is pulling out by 2018, with the loss of 860 jobs.

And it's also understood that cigarette maker JTI Gallaher - which revealed in late 2014 that is was closing its Ballymena plant - is set to shed the bulk of its 870-strong workforce in the coming weeks.

The firm announced it was closing the Co Antrim plant entirely by early 2017.

But Stephen Kelly, chief executive of Manufacturing NI, remains positive about the demand for skilled workers here, following the latest losses.

"I'm confident, while we currently have a blip, that those people will find good, sustainable employment, if not in the short term, then in the medium to long," he said. "We are very pleased that both the DUP and Ulster Unionists have so far committed to ensuring we have competitive energy prices for large energy users, with the DUP in particular saying they will have a review of market structures.

"We would hope once a new Programme for Government is set, that we secure action to deliver prices which will make us competitive."

Outgoing Enterprise Minister Jonathan Bell commissioned a manufacturing advisory group to examine the problems facing the industry.

It pointed the finger at huge energy costs which are facing industry here, which it says are "some of the highest in Europe".

But on a more positive note, Unicorn Mouldings, a manufacturer of industrial, commercial and domestic flooring, is adding 10 new jobs after taking on Belgium firm Ecoloc.

The company currently operates from two production facilities in Lisburn and Markethill in Co Armagh.

It makes the Flexi-Tile, an interlocking PVC floor tile.

Roger Pannell, managing director, said the acquisition "strengthens the company's distribution network and affirms the position as Europe's largest manufacturer of PVC interlocking floor tiles".

"The market in this sector is growing, not just in Europe but also worldwide. By aligning all production in Northern Ireland, this indicates our commitment to the local workforce and the Northern Ireland manufacturing industry," he said.

Meanwhile, a report published by Manufacturing NI last month, and carried out by Oxford Economics, warned more than 6,000 jobs could be lost across the manufacturing sector here over the next decade as companies become more efficient and increase their use of technology.

However, the study predicted the industry itself would grow in size, despite headcount falling.

The manufacturing sector employs around 85,000 people in Northern Ireland.

Belfast Telegraph

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