Former executive with multinational companies says pay ‘not unusual for the expertise required’
The first chief of a taskforce set up by Mid and East Antrim Borough Council to help the area recover from job losses was paid more than £1,000 a day — over twice what the average worker in the area earns in a fortnight.
The next leader of the group will be paid 27% less, at £833 a day, compared to the £1,100 paid to Rose Mary Stalker, now the chairperson of Invest NI.
The taskforce was set up to reinvigorate local industry after the closure of Michelin and JTI Gallaher’s and the loss of 1,600 jobs.
Appointed to lead the group in 2017, Ms Stalker received a total of £113,829, including expenses, for 100 days of work.
At £1,100, the daily rate set by the council is more than what the average worker in the district makes in two weeks.
According to earnings data, people working in the borough typically earned £537 a week last year.
The amount paid to Ms Stalker emerged at a council meeting last week and was first reported by the Ballymena Guardian.
After the TUV councillor Timothy Gaston asked the council for details of her pay, acting chief executive Philip Thompson said: “The previous chairperson received £113,829.74 for 100 days’ service.
“What was proposed last month was £30,000 over a 12-month period for three days per month, which would equate to £833, so the proposed new arrangements would be at a much less value than previously.”
Manufacturers and trade unions are also involved in the taskforce, which is still active and has championed projects including the Belfast Region City Deal and the Heathrow Logistics Hub. Other members of the group are not paid.
The council has been asked if it believes Ms Stalker’s pay represents value for money and why the next chairperson is to be offered a lower rate.
Ms Stalker told this newspaper: “I was head-hunted by an executive recruiter for the role of chair of the Mid and East Antrim manufacturing taskforce.
“I was provided with the assignment brief and a job specification, which included a daily rate appropriate for that level of position.
“Together with at least four other candidates, I went through a selection and interview process, which resulted in my acceptance of a consulting contract to provide services to [the council] including serving as the chair of the manufacturing taskforce at the market rate of £1,100 per day plus expenses.
“The remuneration for the contract was comparable to what would be expected by my peers in this industry, and certainly not unusual for the level of work involved or expertise required.”
She said she served as chair from 2017, when there were no members, until May 21 2019, “when we had built the membership to almost 50 companies including Caterpillar, Ryobi, Moy Park, Sensata Technologies and IPC Mouldings”.
“By the time my contract concluded, it was a vibrant and collaborative network of senior business leaders, supported by a wide range of public sector and industry groups,” Ms Stalker explained.
As well as supporting the Belfast Region City Deal and Heathrow Hub proposals, she said the taskforce also came up with a project to build an innovation centre at St Patrick’s Barracks.
She continued: “The manufacturing taskforce continues to work on collaborative interventions, many of which were instigated during my time as chair, which will positively impact the local community for many years to come.”
Ms Stalker previously held executive and board-level positions with Ford, Boeing and Rolls-Royce.
Around 860 people lost their jobs following tyre manufacturer Michelin’s decision to close, winding down between 2015 and 2018.
About 800 people were employed at cigarette factory JTI Gallaher’s before it shut in 2016.
The taskforce was created to help the area rebalance economically and provide “a strong platform for economic growth and job creation”.
The council has been mired in controversy over allegations of bullying and misconduct, including against its chief executive Anne Donaghy, who has been suspended from her post. She is taking legal action against the local authority.
Ms Stalker, who joined Invest NI in July 2019, was succeeded in the taskforce by Graham Whitehurst. A new chairperson is being sought for a year from April, according to a tender advertisement yesterday bearing the name of Ms Donaghy.