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Caterpillar job losses for Larne yet another blow for Co Antrim's manufacturing heartland

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Caterpillar job losses for Larne yet another blow for Co Antrim's manufacturing heartland

Caterpillar job losses for Larne yet another blow for Co Antrim's manufacturing heartland

Caterpillar job losses for Larne yet another blow for Co Antrim's manufacturing heartland

It’s hard to keep up with the swathes of bad news dropping in to our inboxes at the moment.

From hospitality, to retail and areas of manufacturing, the Covid-19 pandemic has already hit some of household names – and hit them hard.

But the announcement that up to 700 jobs could go at generator giant Caterpillar is one of the largest tranches of cuts we’ve seen here – not only amid the chaos of coronavirus, but in the last few years.

The brand has been with us here since the former stalwart FG Wilson was taken over and rebranded as Caterpillar in 2013.

Shortly before that deal, the firm as FG Wilson announced an even bigger cut to its workforce – shedding more than 1,000 staff.

Now, up to 700 production, support and management positions could be impacted by the latest reduction in headcount.

Earlier this year, around staff at Caterpillar's plant in west Belfast were to be furloughed as the factory shut its doors, temporarily.

And it’s Caterpillar’s main base in Larne, which will bear the brunt of this. And it’s another huge blow to Co Antrim and its manufacturing heartland.

Ballymena was hit hardest with the closure of two titans of industry – Michelin and JTI Gallagher, along with cuts and then the takeover of Wrightbus.

It was such an economic sharp shock that’s since prompted Mid and East Antrim Borough Council to establish a dedicated Manufacturing Taskforce to try and both create and sustain jobs in the area.

It’s headed by Graham Whitehurst MBE – a former head of Michelin here, and also the former operations director at Wrightbus.

Regarding the latest cuts, Caterpillar says the proposed changes would predominantly affect operations in Larne as the plan would include a relocation of a portion of that work and the relocation of some engineering activities to other Caterpillar facilities.

That could also see it selling off its Belfast offices and moving those staff to the Larne site.

While the Co Antrim area is already pivoting in a bid to replace roles and create employment elsewhere – including its major investments as part of the wider Belfast Region City Deal – this is another blow of such significant proportions that it feels like it could be the first of many white flags being raised among some of our biggest employers, as they struggle continue to struggle through impossibly different economic waters.

Ulster Business


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