Belfast Telegraph

Manufacturing 'in crisis' as 1,000 jobs go in a week

By John Mulgrew

More than 1,000 jobs have been cut across Northern Ireland's manufacturing industry in the space of a week, with fears of a crisis looming just weeks before Christmas.

The latest to go is almost 150 posts at two major employers here, and it follows the shock news last week that Michelin is pulling out of Ballymena with the loss of nearly 900 jobs.

Caterpillar NI revealed 100 jobs would go across its three sites - 50 permanent staff, and 50 agency workers.

The firm said weaknesses in a number of its markets had led to a fall in demand, and it was "taking necessary measures during this time to help support the competitiveness and sustainability of the business for the future".

It's understood it will seek voluntary redundancies first.

And US-owned manufacturer Schrader Electronics - which employs around 1,000 here - is to let go 42 employees at its Carrickfergus plant.

Last year, Schrader had announced it was creating 241 jobs across its sites at Carrickfergus and Antrim, and is still actively recruiting new staff.

Invest NI also offered £9.7m of support towards the new jobs.

The car parts supplier was sold by its private equity owners to an American company in a $1bn (£600m) deal in August last year.

A spokesman for Schrader said the posts had gone following a temporary workforce boost to "meet an increase in global vehicle and after-market growth".

Alliance MLA Stewart Dickson said it was a "bad day for east Antrim".

When asked by this paper about the haemorrhaging of manufacturing jobs, Enterprise Minister Jonathan Bell failed to answer how he would stem the huge job losses.

He said the latest cuts were "hugely regrettable and my thoughts are with those who are coming to terms with having to seek alternative employment".

Meanwhile in Londonderry, textiles firm Invista - which produces Lycra - is seeking 48 voluntary redundancies.

But the biggest job losses to hit Northern Ireland in years came when French firm Michelin announced it was pulling out, with the loss of 862 jobs.

It blamed a slump in demand for the Ballymena-made truck tyres in Europe, as well as the advent of cheap Asian alternatives.

Stephen Kelly, chief executive of Manufacturing NI, said the latest cuts highlight the "brittle nature of our manufacturing base and clearly signals the need to begin work on a manufacturing strategy to help mitigate future risks".

And Davy Thompson of Unite union warned "those who say manufacturing in Northern Ireland is not in crisis are in denial".

"The apathy and inaction that have characterised the Executive's approach to manufacturing must end now," he said.

He reiterated concerns over high energy costs in the industry - which Michelin cited as a reason for pulling out of Northern Ireland.

Outside manufacturing, Dunnes Stores said it is closing its food hall at west Belfast's Park Centre, with the loss of 50 jobs.

US firm CVS Healthcare is also set to close its Belfast office, with the loss of around 70 jobs.

Belfast Telegraph


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