Belfast Telegraph

MLAs face truckload of anger: Quarry firm in Stormont lorry protest as budget deadlock threatens 60 jobs

By Adrian Rutherford

A quarry company has warned 60 jobs are under threat because of a shortage of work caused by political wrangling.

Whitemountain Quarries, which is based near Lisburn, issued letters to some staff on Monday putting them on notice.

Some of those threatened with redundancy have worked for the company, which is part of the Lagan Group, for more than 30 years.

The details emerged yesterday during a meeting of the Assembly's regional development committee.

It was hearing evidence from members of the quarry and construction trade about the impact of budget cuts.

The meeting was told some companies' work could run out within a fortnight.

Ahead of the meeting a convoy of lorries parked up at the entrance to Stormont in protest over the situation.

Aidan Mullan from Whitemountain Quarries spelt out the dire situation.

"Most of our subcontractors (have been) dropped off. We have put letters out to 60 employees on Monday to inform them that they are on notice with the threat of redundancy."

The situation is caused by the Executive's failure to agree on the June monitoring round. Fresh funds should have been divided between Government departments, but have not been allocated. As a result, the DRD does not have the money to fund repairs.

Gordon Best from the Quarry Products Association Northern Ireland warned the industry was facing an "unprecedented crisis".

He said in January there were 950 people employed in the sector, but this had recently dropped to 466.

"Now the estimate is that if we don't find funding to keep work going, that will drop to what I would say is nearly an irrecoverable position of having less than 200 employees working in the sector," he said.

Mr Best referred to figures showing £1.7 million worth of asphalt resurfacing work and just over £1m for small scale and minor work remaining.

"That is about a week-and-a-half or a maximum of two weeks' work for the industry as a whole across Northern Ireland."

John Shannon, the managing director of Patrick Bradley Ltd, said the money for road contractors had been slashed from £70m to £9m.

"Currently we have no subcontractors working for us - this time last year he had about 100-plus," he said.

Management has taken a 5% pay cut, all admin staff have 10% fewer hours and an overtime embargo is in place, Mr Shannon added.

Ulster Unionist MLA Adrian Cochrane-Watson warned that safety could be put at risk because of poorly maintained roads.

"I am very concerned that we will witness a serious accident, God forbid a fatality, and it's going to be put down to lack of maintenance," he said.

"We're talking about livelihoods, but also lives as well."

Belfast Telegraph


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