Belfast Telegraph

MP Girvan calls for early intervention to save manufacturing jobs

By Margaret Canning

More could be done to help distressed companies in Northern Ireland before other jobs are put at risk in the troubled manufacturing sector, it has been claimed.

Paul Girvan, DUP MP for South Antrim, spoke after around 350 jobs were lost in his constituency in one day.

"It was a really bad day, not just for my consituency but for Northern Ireland. Any job losses have a rapid effect as Northern Ireland is such a small place," he said.

And the head of the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry said the administration of Williams Industrial Services in Mallusk demonstrated the uncertainty facing businesses in the province.

PwC was appointed administrators to the firm yesterday.

The firm had run out of money following commercial disputes, according to PWC, with almost all of its 145-strong workforce losing their jobs immediately.

And French oil services firm Schlumberger confirmed an earlier decision to shut its Newtownabbey plant with the loss of 205 jobs.

Economic development agency Invest NI said that it was in discussions with Williams Industrial Services.

"We are working with WiS as we do with any company in this position," an agency spokeswoman said.

Mr Girvan said that workers at the company commuted from different parts of Co Antrim so the loss of jobs would also be felt in other areas.

"We must make sure we do what we can to retain good jobs and, maybe in cases of indigenous firms, make sure there is some form of early intervention which can help when problems arise," the MP said.

Roger Pollen, head of external affairs at the Federation of Small Businesses in Northern Ireland, said WiS's troubles were a matter of "great regret".

"WiS Group has built a high quality business and it is a matter of great regret that they have encountered serious trading difficulties," he said.

"We hope that the administrator will be able to move rapidly to save the core business and protect the numerous small businesses involved in the supply chain.

"Similarly, we wish that their highly-skilled workforce will continue to be effectively deployed."

Stephen Cave of PwC said: "The company ran into a number of commercial issues on some of its key contracts in recent months, culminating in contractual disputes which had a significant and adverse impact on trading cashflow.

"Despite endeavours to resolve the matters and secure a way forward, the company ran out of funds."

Ann McGregor, the chief executive of the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said: "What has happened with WiS shows the uncertainty facing companies at the present due to the lack of an Executive and Brexit.

"It shows the need for stability and clarity so that businesses can plan," she added.

Belfast Telegraph

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