Thousands of potential job losses were announced yesterday, dashing hopes of a smooth ride for the job market as the economy exits recession.
In Northern Ireland Baker Hughes announced it will shut its Hughes Christensen factory in east Belfast with the loss of 210 jobs.
And trade union Unite claimed telecomms firm Avaya is to leave the former Nortel site in Monkstown with the loss of 140 jobs — and a knock-on loss of the jobs of 60 suppliers — just one month after it bought the enterprise division of Nortel.
Elsewhere in the UK, 2,500 posts were axed or threatened while another 1,600 were created.
Cuts were announced at home shopping group Shop Direct, car giant Toyota and rail contractors Babcock, fuelling fears that unemployment could start to rise again ahead of the forthcoming general election.
But technology company Seagate, carmaker Nissan, US consumer electronics company Best Buy and engineering firm Mabey Bridge eased the grim news with announcements of new jobs.
The biggest cuts were announced by Shop Direct, which said 1,500 jobs would be cut at Sunderland, Burnley and Newtown in Mid Wales.
The GMB said the announcement was a ‘devastating blow’ and pledged to do everything it could during the 90-day consultation to lessen the impact of the ‘disastrous’ news.
Toyota warned unions it had a ‘headcount surplus’ of 750, raising fears of major job losses later in the year.
The Japanese company said that 2009 had been a ‘tough year’ and it had already announced operational cutbacks at its plant at Burnaston near Derby later this year.
The company said it had discussed with unions how to manage the surplus to make sure it had a ‘sustainable business’ for the long term.
The manufacturer employs about 3,500 people at its Burnaston plant, along with another 500 at Deeside in North Wales.
Babcock Rail said it would cut 300 jobs in Scotland and the North of England, including a ‘slimmed down’ management team.
But technology company Seagate is to create 85 jobs in research and development at its Londonderry base and 10 research posts at Queen’s.
The good news was hailed by US Economic Envoy Declan Kelly. “Partnerships like the one established between Seagate and Queen’s University are key in driving innovation, and are crucial to Northern Ireland’s future economic growth,” he said.
In England, retailer Best Buy announced plans to create up to 1,000 jobs over the next five years after opening its first stores in the spring in Southampton, Essex and the West Midlands.
Nissan is to launch a temporary third production shift at its main UK plant, creating 400 new jobs and safeguarding 160 temporary posts.
Mabey Bridge said it was poised to create 240 jobs making towers for wind turbines and would invest £38m at a new facility in Monmouthshire.