Manufacturing giant FG Wilson will no longer exist in Northern Ireland in five years’ time, a company insider has claimed.
The well-placed source also said the firm, which produces diesel generator units, will shed over 1,300 jobs in total by the end of 2013.
The grim news comes after a warning of more redundancies following last Thursday’s announcement that 760 jobs will be lost.
Larne will be hardest hit, but positions will also go at three other sites in greater Belfast by the end of this year.
Northern Ireland Independent Retailers Association (NIIRTA) boss Glyn Roberts said the knock-on effect of the firm’s demise will have a stark impact on the region’s jobless figures. He expects up to 600 additional jobs to go in Northern Ireland within months.
“We’re not going to get a company like FG Wilson back to east Antrim and I think there is a very real danger that town centres in Larne and Carrickfergus could be reduced to wastelands unless we see concerted action by the Executive.”
FG Wilson — which received £24m in State funding over the past 12 years — is part of the international Caterpillar corporation and it employs more than 3,000 people.
It more than doubled its pre-tax profits to £7.8m last year. Production of 70% of small generator sets is due to be relocated to China by early 2014.
A company insider told the Belfast Telegraph that the business had become uneconomical for FG Wilson due to a lack of orders.
“People on the ground believe that over 1,300 employees will have lost their jobs by the end of 2013,” the source said. “In five years FG Wilson is not going to be a brand anymore; FG Wilson, as we know it, will not exist in Northern Ireland five years.
“They’ll probably keep engineers on the R&D side, but everyone in the industry believes there will be no manufacturing in Northern Ireland.”
The insider added: “Caterpillar’s share price rose by 1.2% after the announcement on Thursday.
“That 1.2% rise would have kept the people they were going to sack in a job.”
Robert Kennedy, the company's Northern Ireland operations director, said he understood “these decisions will be difficult for the lives of many of our workers and their families, and we genuinely regret that”.
“We are striving to reduce some of the impact by offering an enhanced VR package,” he added.
“We'll also help redeploy displaced workers by providing training on new skill sets, partnering with potential Northern Ireland employers to host job fairs and hiring a placement service.”
The UK Treasury is under pressure from all sides in Northern Ireland to lower the main rate of corporation tax of 24% and bring it into line with the Irish Republic's 12.5% in an attempt to compete better for overseas investment.
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FG Wilson — part of the international Caterpillar corporation — employs over 3,000 people. It has 45 years of experience in the supply of diesel and gas generator sets and is one of Northern Ireland’s biggest manufacturers. The company announced in June that it was moving production of its 400 series generator sets to Tianjin, China.