Belfast Telegraph

FG Wilson plays down job fears

A NEW assembly line at generator manufacturer FG Wilson in Co Antrim will boost efficiency but will not pose a threat to jobs, a senior figure at parent company Caterpillar said.

The new £5.2m assembly line was unveiled by Gerard Vittecoq, group president of Caterpillar Inc, at the FG Wilson facility in Larne.

Mr Vittecoq told the Belfast Telegraph the line will provide "40% more productivity".

He said demand for power was growing. "We are in the right market at the right time and we're here for a long time. I would add now that we also have the right people in the right place here in Larne."

Mr Vittecoq spoke of the high quality of staff in the Northern Ireland subsidiary and described FG Wilson's Larne operation as "a perfect fit".

He continued: "It's a competitive location which exports all across the world.

"Both product design and manufacturing happens here.

"The new line will improve competitiveness; there is going to be 40% more productivity."

After shedding nearly 1,000 agency and full-time staff in 2008 and 2009, the jobs situation at FG Wilson has improved in 2010, with 450 agency staff taken on, and company hopes that this figure could rise.

The Caterpillar group president was insistent that boosting output mechanically would not pose a threat to jobs.

"It will do just the opposite. Economic studies support the fact that as productivity increases, there will indeed be more jobs."

He said it was "destructive" to treat work as being finite.

"There is a tendency to see work as being like a cake which needs to be shared.

"Through improving output, we can increase the size of the cake."

Mr Vittecoq was in Larne on Friday for the official launch of the new 1100 series assembly line.

It was unveiled at FG Wilson's operation there, attended by First Minister Peter Robinson, Trade and Investment Minister Arlene Foster and Finance Minister Sammy Wilson.

Arlene Foster said FG Wilson's investment in the new line would help it "achieve efficiencies that will enhance its competitiveness in the global marketplace".

"It is a sign of the company's continuing commitment to its Larne plant, which has brought so many benefits to the Larne area and the Northern Ireland economy, over the last 40 years," she added.