Belfast Telegraph

Group to be announced in response to decline in Northern Ireland jobs

By Joanne Sweeney

A Government-led group aimed at tackling Northern Ireland's manufacturing crisis is due to be announced later today.

However, it's not yet known what the composition of the group will be and what authority it will have to tackle the jobs decline in Northern Ireland's manufacturing sector.

The move is viewed as a direct response from Enterprise Minister Jonathan Bell to stem the loss of manufacturing jobs in Northern Ireland.

Following criticism over a lack of response to the jobs crisis, Mr Bell said he was establishing an advisory group to report on the challenges facing the sector, including energy costs.

Mr Bell also said that he had met NIE Networks, the electricity system operator for Northern Ireland, and the Utility Regulator to discuss the energy costs facing business.

The advisory group is set to be initially welcomed by industry and business leaders and politicians who expressed concern that the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment was not doing enough to stem the crisis.

Last month, more than 1,100 jobs were lost in less than a week in the region's manufacturing, most from long-established firms.

Caterpillar NI revealed it was cutting 100 jobs, while Schrader Electronics is letting 42 temporary staff go.

The biggest shock to the sector was confirmation with the announcement that Michelin is pulling out of Ballymena, with the loss of 862 jobs.

Bombardier, Northern Ireland's largest manufacturer, is also facing uncertain times amid its CSeries jet struggles.

The DUP minister came under fire from leaders in the world of industry, politics and business to take action against further haemorrhaging of jobs in the straitened sector.

Stephen Kelly of Manufacturing NI said: "We would hope that he would use his influence to come up with a plan, supported by colleagues in the Executive and agencies, to make the case for new manufacturing in Northern Ireland."

More than 80,000 people work in manufacturing, representing around 14% of Northern Ireland's economy.

Ulster Bank's chief economist Richard Ramsey has warned that jobs will continue to be lost as businesses cut costs amid high energy bills.

Belfast Telegraph