A £19.5m investment which would have resulted in up to 900 new jobs in Northern Ireland has been put on ice, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.
In a double blow, outsourcing firm Gem yesterday told its 800 staff that 10% of the workforce is also facing the axe.
The grim announcement affects 60 workers in the Belfast office and 20 in the Londonderry base.
The unexpected news comes after two of Gem’s clients informed the Top 100 Northern Ireland company that they would not be renewing contracts.
A spokeswoman for Gem said: “Strategic decisions taken by two of our clients not to renew contracts have resulted in a reduction of our workforce. Our staff have been informed and we are currently involved in a consultation period.
“We remain committed to doing business in Northern Ireland and will continue to source new opportunities to retain staff and also retrain where possible.”
It comes four months after Derry-based call and outsourcing centre Stream International said it was having to lay-off hundreds of workers after losing a vital contract.
Gem had announced in February last year, at the height of the recession, that it was creating hundreds of new posts in a much-needed jobs boost for the struggling economy.
It followed a wave of redundancies across the province including Woolworths, Wrightbus, MFI and Ulster Bank.
Invest Northern Ireland (INI) had agreed to contribute £5.5m to the expansion project, which was due to be completed by 2010. It is understood INI has been informed that the investment has been put on hold.
A spokeswoman for Gem said: “Our previously announced three-year expansion plans are therefore delayed. We have not received any employment-related funding for the expansion which was announced last year.”
The earmarked new posts, which would have seen Gem’s workforce double, were for customer service agents, sales agents, technical support and managerial positions.
Gem is ranked 55 in this year’s Top 100 Northern Ireland Companies, which was published last month.