Belfast Telegraph

Schlumberger denies planning to close plant to exploit oil price hike

By Margaret Canning

US oil industry manufacturer Schlumberger has said it does not foresee sustainable recovery in the market as it considers closing down its Newtownabbey plant.

A spokeswoman for the firm said no decision had yet been made as a consultation is taking place with its 220-strong workforce.

And she said that in the event of a closure - which she said would take place in springtime next year, if it goes ahead - employees could be moved to other locations.

But she denied suggestions from the workforce that the Paris-based business - which has plants around the globe - was speeding up the closure process to avoid the appearance of shutting it down to make more money out of increasing oil prices.

"Although we believe that we may have touched the bottom of the downturn cycle, we do not see short-term sustainable recovery and oil prices averaging $50-60 may be the new reality for some time," she said.

"This scenario means that many of our manufacturing plants are under-utilised and, in order to adapt to the new realities of the market, we need to restructure our production footprint."

Moving operational activities out of Belfast was "an option," she said, with closure planned for the second quarter of next year, if it goes ahead.

"We are fully aware that such actions would have an impact on the local employment situation - this is something that we do not take lightly.

"Should the decision to cease manufacturing, assembly and testing activities in Belfast be confirmed, every effort will be made to support affected employees, including potentially transferring some staff to other locations."

A worker at the Newtownabbey plant - which was acquired by Schlumberger from Camco in 1998 - said the plant had expertise which was not shared in other facilities of the company, with some employees notching up to 40 years of experience.

The plant makes components for use in land and sea oil rigs. Products include pistons, gauge carriers, hydraulic chambers and hydraulic subs.

He also called for the political parties to set aside their differences to work together so that the plant could be saved.

"We need Stormont more than ever now," he said.

"The politicians really need to put their troubles aside and look after us working people. For crying out loud, over 200 highly skilled jobs are at risk."

Belfast Telegraph

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