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FG Wilson workers at the Larne factory in Co Antrim as up to 760 jobs are to be axed by the engineering company

FG Wilson workers at the Larne factory in Co Antrim as up to 760 jobs are to be axed by the engineering company

FG Wilson workers at the Larne factory in Co Antrim as up to 760 jobs are to be axed by the engineering company

Northern Ireland's struggling economy has been rocked by the loss of 760 jobs at one of its main manufacturing firms.

FG Wilson also warned there would be more redundancies as the company prepared to transfer some of its production of small diesel generators to China.

The job losses were announced as the power sharing executive met at Stormont to discuss the worsening economic crisis amid demands on London to agree to lowering corporation tax in a bid to attract new investment.

Larne, Co.Antrim, will be hardest hit, but jobs will also go at three other sites in the greater Belfast area by the end of the year. FG Wilson is part of the international Caterpillar corporation and employs 3,000. It more than doubled its pre-tax profits to £7.8 million last year. But in a statement it claimed the redundancies were an attempt to make the business more efficient and competitive. Production of 70% of small generator sets is due to be relocated to China by early 2014 which will mean another reduction in the labour force.

The 760 includes 170 who were notified in June that they were no longer wanted, but the scale of the additional cuts shocked the unions and executive ministers. Northern Ireland's unemployment rate of 8.2% is the highest of any region in the UK.

Robert Kennedy, the company's Northern Ireland operations director, said: "We understand 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. 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 company announced in June that it was moving production of its 400 series generator sets to Tianjin, China, in order to build the product closer to its growing customer base.

The enterprise minister Arlene Foster said it was a devastating blow for the workers and their families, but revealed she had received a written guarantee from Caterpillar of the company's long-term commitment to Northern Ireland.

Union leaders claimed the knock-out effect on local business would be massive, and claimed the company acted without concern, with Unite regional secretary Jimmy Kelly saying he was furious.

PA


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