Belfast Telegraph

Scheme to lower Michelin's energy costs was ready to be agreed

By Noel McAdam

Enterprise Minister Jonathan Bell has revealed he was prepared to agree a £750,000 scheme aimed at bringing down energy costs at Michelin.

Speaking at question time in the Assembly, the Enterprise Minister insisted he has already begun work on support measures for the 860 workers due to lose their jobs at the Ballymena plant by 2018.

He also said he and Employment and Learning Minister Stephen Farry, of Alliance, have spoken to senior members of Mid and East Antrim council on what support Invest NI can provide.

The council is also setting up a task force in an attempt to tackle the crisis, following the devastating announcement by the company last week.

"We acknowledge the work of the Michelin management team in ensuring that people will not be out of work until 2018. Their hope and ambition is that those people can leave work and go to other jobs with a healthy pay cheque in their hands," the DUP minister added.

"What we have to do now is reduce our corporation tax, set the date that we are going to do that, and attract the 30,000-plus new jobs that are available to Northern Ireland."

But he was challenged by the SDLP's Patsy McGlone about the need for a more strategic approach for the manufacturing sector.

"Has the minister deliberated on a stakeholder-type approach involving manufacturers, the social and trade union sector and his department in order to develop a more contemporary manufacturing strategy?" Mr McGlone asked.

Mr Bell said he had met unions and tried to take forward some of their ideas, specifically on energy costs. "I was ready to sign off a £750,000 grant investment to Michelin to try to bring its energy costs down.

"I can work with trade unions on some things; I do not think that other things that they have asked me to do, like appointing additional junior ministers, would be acceptable."

Belfast Telegraph