Belfast Telegraph

Union says 'no immediate threat' to jobs at Co Down plant after £23bn takeover

By Michael Sheils McNamee

Union Unite has issued a "cautious response" to an aerospace takeover deal that will result in a change of ownership for a major Co Down employer.

A $30bn (£23bn) deal will see United Technologies buy aircraft parts manufacturer Rockwell Collins - which currently operates a factory in Kilkeel which manufactures a large proportion of the world's first class and business class airplane seats.

The takeover is one of the largest in aviation history.

In a statement, Unite's regional officer Susan Fitzgerald said that there was "no immediate threat to jobs at Kilkeel" and that it was "well-positioned to weather out any storm".

"We will be keeping a warning brief on developments as they play out", she added.

"Rockwell Collins is a blue-chip employer in the south Down area – providing direct employment to approximately 800 workers – and sustaining many more in the wider economy," said Ms Fitzgerald.

"It is vital to safeguard these jobs and defend the pay, terms and conditions of its workers against any pressures arising from today’s announcement."

Whether or not any jobs at the factory will be cut may not become apparent until later this year once the takeover is complete.

Ms Fitzgerald noted that the aerospace industry is highly competitive, and the downturn following the global recession of 2008 had only began to lift in the past couple of years.

She also issued a note of caution about United Technologies' planned cost-cutting measures.

"This is a very big corporate takeover and will involve very significant restructuring in both companies. We note that United Technologies has identified the potential for $500 million worth of what they call 'cost synergies' – to corporate management that means rationalisations that will increase profit – to workers that will raise fears of site closures, redundancies and the potential of off-shoring," she said.

Local DUP MLA Jim Wells said that he will be seeking reassurances about workers' jobs at the plant, saying that the announcement had created "uncertainty".

"This is by far the most important employer in the Mourne area and the local economy depends on it continued success," Mr Wells said.

"I will be contacting the new owner seeking an assurance that there will be no job losses at the Kilkeel factory."

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