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Co Antrim firm SDC Trailers slams Brexit as fears for jobs grow

Blow comes as union claims 13,000 posts lost in 12 years

Manufacturer SDC Trailers has blamed Brexit for potential job losses among its 650 staff here as trade union figures show that over 13,000 industry roles in Northern Ireland have been lost in the last 12 years
Manufacturer SDC Trailers has blamed Brexit for potential job losses among its 650 staff here as trade union figures show that over 13,000 industry roles in Northern Ireland have been lost in the last 12 years
Margaret Canning

By Margaret Canning

Manufacturer SDC Trailers has blamed Brexit for potential job losses among its 650 staff here as trade union figures show that over 13,000 industry roles in Northern Ireland have been lost in the last 12 years.

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At least 100 jobs are understood to be at risk at SDC, which is owned by Chinese company CIMC Vehicles.

The firm, which was owned by the Donnelly family before its sale to CIMC three years ago, employs around 800 people in total across its base in Toomebridge, Co Antrim, and a site in England.

It said: "In recent months, it is clear the uncertainty of Brexit and other economic concerns has resulted in a slowing down of capital purchases from retailers, logistics firms and others."

SDC said it had responded by entering a consultation with employees “with the unfortunate likely outcome being a number of employees being made redundant”.

It added: “We are unable to confirm numbers at this stage as the consultation process is still ongoing with our workforce.”

However, it’s understood at least 100 jobs are at risk.

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Manufacturing NI chief executive Stephen Kelly said parts of the company which rely on clients committing to major capital spends have been under pressure.

“We’ve been warning for some time that those parts of our economy which are particularly exposed to confidence in the market to make large capital spends are under stress,” he said.

“Whether it be transport equipment, construction supply or other sectors, there is significant evidence from the Bank of England and others that Brexit is a huge drag on investment.

“It’s not simply a case of requiring certainty, but actually a final Brexit outcome which is conducive to making decisions on big capital spend is important. Business has been calling for sanity, not just certainty.”

But he said that if deal was concluded, then buyers would be ready to make investments.

“That will protect the UK economy from the significant headwinds which appear to be developing on global markets.”

Seamus Leheny, regional manager for Northern Ireland at the Freight Transport Association — a major customer base for SDC Trailers — said: “This is worrying news although we are confident that SDC, which is a high quality manufacturer of trailers that the logistics industry relies on, will get through this difficult time and come out stronger.

“Brexit is certainly an influence in this as many operators have cut back in non-essential capital expenditure until they are confident of what kind of trading relationships we will face after Brexit. Logistics is heavily exposed in Brexit so the sooner we have clarity, the sooner operators can begin to invest again.”

In its latest accounts, SDC reported £175m in sales for the full year of 2018 — up from £122m for the previous nine month accounting period. Pre-tax profits were £6m.

The report, published in September, added that it did not believe Brexit uncertainty had a “material impact” on performance at that point.

But it added that it had a contingency plan for a no-deal Brexit, focusing on supply chain management, foreign exchange fluctuations and “the needs of foreign national employees”.

News of the job losses came as research from trade union GMB shows that Northern Ireland has lost over 13,000 jobs since 2007 — a fall of 13%.

However, that was one of the lowest percentage falls of any UK region. Only the South West of England reported a lower rate of manufacturing job losses, at 9.9%. All other regions were higher, with London the worst-hit and losing 30% of its manufacturing roles.

Belfast Telegraph

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