| 17.8°C Belfast

MLA criticises Caterpillar for requesting that its staff return to work

Close

Caterpillar aim to resume production at the company’s west Belfast plant on Monday

Caterpillar aim to resume production at the company’s west Belfast plant on Monday

AP

Caterpillar aim to resume production at the company’s west Belfast plant on Monday

Manufacturing firm Caterpillar has been criticised after requesting that its workforce returns to work on Monday.

Gerry Carroll, a People Before Profit MLA, said he was "incensed" that the firm has plans to reintroduce 170 staff members to the workplace next week.

He said workers at the company's west Belfast site contacted him with concerns that "their lives would be put at risk by undertaking non-essential work".

Mr Carroll called for the Assembly to intervene.

"The question must be asked: where is the Stormont Executive in all this? They talk about lockdown and chastise the public for not staying at home while seemingly allowing big business to do what they like in the name of profit," he added.

In response Caterpillar, which has two factories here - one in west Belfast and one in Larne - said it always had plans to bring staff back into production at this time and it is following government guidelines in doing so.

It said: "As announced four weeks ago, production at the Caterpillar assembly facility in Springvale was temporarily suspended from Monday, April 6 through Friday, April 24, 2020. Impacted employees were furloughed in line with the UK Government Job Retention Scheme for this period.

"Production will recommence on Monday, April 27 as planned. The facility operates while adhering to the Government's guidance.

"Our employees' safety, health and well-being remain a top priority."

On April 1 a company spokesman said staff at the west Belfast assembly line were to be furloughed during a three-week closure of the site.

He said it would be a temporary measure until Monday, April 27.

However, the Larne headquarters of Caterpillar, where generators for crucial uses such as hospitals, telecoms and food factories are made, remained open.

According to Stephen Kelly of trade group Manufacturing NI, 26% of members who had shut said recently they would reopen this week. Others plan to reopen their businesses on May 11.

The information was generated from an online survey created by Manufacturing NI. Results were collated from more than 200 responses from leaders in manufacturing across all sub-sectors and spread across Northern Ireland.

Mr Carroll continued: "I have been engaging with trade unions on this issues, and I am calling on Arlene Foster and Michelle O'Neill to intervene; block Caterpillar, Bombardier and other non-essential businesses from opening, don't allow workers to be risked for profit."

Belfast Telegraph