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Union slams FG Wilson for 'needless' job cuts

The UNITE union has hit out at manufacturer FG Wilson after it emerged the company made a record profit shortly before laying off 700 workers.

But the Larne-based firm defended its actions, saying it had reduced its workforce because of a severe downturn in orders for the generators it makes.

Financial statements filed at Companies House showed FG Wilson made a profit of £19.9m in the year to December 31, 2008.

But in January this year the firm - which is owned by US-based heavy machinery giant Caterpillar - began cutting hundreds of jobs.

Unite said it was "shocked and dismayed" at the figures and noted the company had received £24m in Government grants from 1999 to 2008.

"This simply does not add up. Hundreds of jobs have been needlessly lost in order for FG Wilson to protect its profit margin.

"The company failed to say that it had been making a profit and instead cried wolf whereas the 700 people who have lost their jobs are now facing a bleak Christmas and an even bleaker future," said Sean Smyth, Unite's regional industrial organiser.

"I have spoken to the Unite reps at FG Wilson and they are extremely angry.

"The Union is demanding that the government take stock of how much investment it has ploughed into the company and if that money can be clawed back if it is found that FG Wilson has breached any financial assistant agreements."

FG Wilson said its decisions were justified and reflected trading conditions.

It said in a statement: "FG Wilson is an integral part of Caterpillar's Electric Power division and 2008 was a record year in terms of sales revenue for the division. All employees as a result of this shared the benefits through one of the highest bonus payouts in recent years.

"However, in the last three months of 2008, the significant disruption in the global economy led to a sharp downturn in demand for our products and dramatically changed the environment.

"To respond we took actions necessary to manage and protect the health of the company for the long term and constantly communicated with our employees and the union throughout.

"The business was resized by the release of agency workers and voluntary redundancies. It was not necessary to declare any jobs compulsorily redundant.''

The statement from the Co Antrim-based firm added: "While difficult, the actions we have taken this year have been in the long-term interests of the company."

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