Michelin workers set for £1k seasonal pay bonus
Agreement part of deal to staff who face losing jobs
Stricken workers at the Michelin plant in Ballymena - which is to close down with the loss of nearly 900 jobs - are in line for a Christmas bonus of up to £1,000 each, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.
The seasonal windfall is part of discussions between trade union Unite and bosses of the French tyre giant during a consultation period.
As the company aims to enthuse demoralised staff in its Co Antrim plant, as well as reach agreement with the union, it's understood the 860-strong workforce could also benefit from an additional bonus scheme over the next few months.
That scheme would see workers given an incentive to earn up to £300 extra a month as a reward for productiveness.
Michelin announced in October it was to close down in Ballymena in 2018 after 48 years in the town, once regarded as a strong centre for Northern Ireland industry.
The firm blamed high energy costs, cheap Asian imports of tyres and falling demand for its products for the decision.
But employees in Ballymena have been offered the option to relocate to the firm's other European sites, including Dundee and French locations.
The company's UK head office would not comment on the bonus proposals, nor would a spokeswoman in the Ballymena plant comment.
Trade union Unite also refused to say anything, with all parties saying the contents of discussions were strictly confidential until the consultation into job losses closes in March.
Stephen Kelly, chief executive of Manufacturing NI, said the bonus proposals reflected the traditional image of Michelin as a generous employer.
"If true, then this is very good news for workers, their families and for retailers and the leisure industry in north Antrim at this critical, Christmas period.
"Manufacturing jobs are at the centre of strong local economies and this would be a tremendous boost after a period of some uncertainty brought about by recent job loss announcements.
"It is a reflection of the appreciation the company has for its workers and indeed how good an employer Michelin has been for over well 40 years."
Following Michelin's shock announcement and other job losses in Northern Ireland manufacturing, Enterprise Minister Jonathan Bell said he was establishing an advisory group to report on the challenges facing the sector, including energy costs.
Caterpillar NI revealed it was cutting 100 jobs, while Schrader Electronics is letting 42 temporary staff go.
And in Ballymena, the proposed closure of Michelin is an added blow. Last year tobacco firm JTI, which employs 700 people in the town, announced it would be closing in 2017.
The town has enjoyed a reputation as Northern Ireland's manufacturing powerhouse in recent decades, with workers at both Michelin and JTI earning well over the private sector average.