JTI Gallaher sets up £5m work and skills fund as 870 tobacco factory jobs go
A tobacco manufacturer which is axing nearly 900 jobs with the closure of its Co Antrim factory has announced a £5 million trust fund to support re-employment opportunities in the area.
The decision to close the JTI (Japan Tobacco International) Gallaher plant in Ballymena dealt a hammer blow to the town's already faltering economy.
A total of 870 jobs will be lost when production ends next year. Around 500 employees have already been made redundant.
JTI has now set up a £5 million legacy fund to support job creation and skills development for the Ballymena community along with support for disadvantaged adults. Around £300,000 will be spent every year for the next two decades.
The charitable trust will be chaired by North Antrim DUP MP Ian Paisley.
Charlie Cunningham-Reid, JTI UK's head of corporate affairs and communications said: " We have supported the local community in Northern Ireland since Tom Gallaher's very first charitable donation in 1897. Following the announcement of our factory closure, JTI made a commitment to continue this support and we believe the creation of this trust will leave a lasting legacy for the people of Ballymena."
Mr Paisley welcomed the fund.
"JTI Gallaher has been at the heart of my constituency for many years and this significant commitment by the company to the local community will help deliver real opportunities for job creation and skills development," he said.
"I look forward to working with the trust and the local community to maximise the positive impact of this legacy for the people of Ballymena."