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Manufacturing firms forced to shed third of workforce

Published 03/11/2008

The economic downturn has forced some manufacturing companies in Northern Ireland to shed almost a third of their workforce, it was revealed today.

A body representing employers said the slowdown was hitting the industry hard and called on Stormont executive members to put aside their differences to try and address the problems.

The warning comes after building and engineering firms last week estimated that as many as 18,000 jobs could be lost in their respective sectors next year.

Northern Ireland Manufacturing (NIM), which represents 500 firms in the region, said the crisis affecting the construction industry was having a knock-on effect on its members.

NIM Chief Executive, Bryan Gray said: "Many of our members are exposed to the slowdown in the local construction markets but the situation is even worse for larger manufacturers of construction materials who are also being hit by the slowdown in Great Britain.

"Employers have already begun to reduce staff numbers and this situation is going to accelerate if action is not taken.

"Some companies are reporting redundancies as high as 30% of their total workforces."

The Northern Ireland Executive has not meet for over four months amid a stalemate between the DUP and Sinn Fein on a series of issues, including a timetable for the devolution of policing powers to Stormont.

NIM Chairman, Michael Wightman added: "There is growing frustration and anger amongst our members that, at a time when other Governments are working night and day to bolster their economies, ours isn't meeting.

"We understand that there are political issues to be resolved, but this is a time of crisis and we would call on all sides to show the leadership we need by 'parking' their differences until the economy is under control.

"Confidence in the business sector is going downhill fast. The present stalemate has prevented the Assembly from investing in major capital and regeneration projects which have the potential to stimulate the economy and point the way out of the present recession.

"In a week when the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown said that bold and far reaching decisions are needed to support families and businesses through these extraordinary times, it is extremely disappointing that our Executive can't meet even to discuss the dire economic situation.

"Our members have worked long and hard to build sustainable businesses here and provide major employment opportunities. We were pleased to have an Executive drawn from a locally elected assembly and delighted when it put the economy at the heart of its programme for Government, but now the Executive badly needs to get back to work to ensure that businesses stay in business and people stay in work."

Belfast Telegraph

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