A Co Down cruise ship refurbishment and interior outfit company has told staff that redundancies "in large numbers" are unavoidable after orders were postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In an internal communication to staff on Tuesday, MJM Marine in Newry explained that the company's current orders have been postponed indefinitely by customers from Thursday, with the exception of one project.
That project, the company stated, can be completed by a small number of staff by the end of April and there is no prospect of securing new orders for the foreseeable future.
MJM employs 270 people in three offices in Europe. MJM Marine, one of the largest employers in the Newry area, added that they were informed by one customer that a new order would not be placed until 2022 at the earliest.
"You will appreciate that we find ourselves in unprecedented times," read the internal communication.
"The consequence of the spread of Covid-19 and the steps that are being taken globally to arrest the spread of the virus have had a catastrophic impact upon businesses generally and I am afraid that this company is no exception."
It continued: "It is with deep regret that we have to inform you that redundancies in large numbers are unavoidable.
"We wish to continue to employ as many of our workforce as we can. We will be consulting with your representatives over the next days to see how best we can avoid redundancies and keep them to the lowest level and also about mitigating the effect of redundancy upon redundant workers, but the first step is for the workforce to elect its own representatives so that they can represent you in consulting with the company representatives as to how the company deals with this redundancy crisis.
"It is extremely important that the representatives reflect all of the employees' interests."
In a statement on Tuesday evening, the firm said: "Today MJM Marine has communicated to our valued employees the first stage of a consultation process which will result in redundancies. Despite taking the highest level of precautions, decisions late last week across the world led to all but one of our drydock projects being postponed indefinitely due to Covid-19.
"This is not something we ever expected to have to do but unfortunately with the situation in the cruise sector we have been left with no alternative. Our thoughts and concerns are with all those who have been impacted by Covid-19 and with those at the front line of dealing with it.
"Our priority is the continued health and safety of our people; and our clients and suppliers who are all being impacted."
The company was founded by Brian McConville in 1983 and specialises in new-build refurbishment, refit and fit-out services to the marine, commercial and private sectors.
Commenting on the announcement, President of Newry Chamber of Commerce and Trade, Emma Marmion said:
“Brian and his family have been at the heart of business growth in our city.
“MJM Marine is exactly the type of business that needs government support to get businesses through this unprecedented economic crisis."