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Hundreds of jobs on the line as Caterpillar calls meeting for its workers

By John Mulgrew

Published 01/09/2016

There are fears that hundreds of job cuts will today be announced at Caterpillar - one of Northern Ireland's largest manufacturing giants.

The generator maker, which employs approximately 1,800 staff, is due to brief staff later today about job cuts at the business, which has three sites across the province.

While exact numbers are not yet known, it is understood they will be significant, given the scale of the firm's workforce.

Caterpillar has its operations spread across its base at Larne, as well as Newtownabbey and Springvale in west Belfast.

A spokesman said: "Caterpillar is committed to communicating regularly and directly with our employees about the business environment and any resulting changes."

It is understood staff are being summoned to a meeting at 2pm today to be briefed, with employees expected to get time off after the announcement.

Concerns were first raised after nightshifts were cancelled.

Staff at Caterpillar - formerly FG Wilson - are still not clear about the scale of job losses at the company, or whether any of the three sites will shut.

Sinn Fein MP Paul Maskey said staff need to be kept up to date on any developments on the future of the company.

The West Belfast MP added: "Uncertainty over the future of Caterpillar's operations in the north will be no doubt distressing for the workers and also for their families."

Caterpillar previously warned that post-Brexit uncertainty could have a short-term hit on customer purchasing decisions.

SDLP councillor Tim Attwood said there was "major concern that Caterpillar are going to make a significant statement".

Unite's Davy Thompson added that there was a "genuine concern" among members and the workforce as a whole. "There has been a genuine concern, and there has been since last year, when the company announced its footprint was being looked at globally," he explained.

SDLP MLA Alex Attwood said workers and public representatives "need to know the true state of affairs quickly".

"No stone should be left unturned in making sure jobs are protected and protected at all Caterpillar sites," he added.

Last year, Caterpillar announced it was cutting around 120 jobs here.

Belfast Telegraph

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