Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: A strategic plan to secure jobs needed

Security staff shut the gates of Wrightbus after the firm’s closure last week
Security staff shut the gates of Wrightbus after the firm’s closure last week

Editor's Viewpoint

On the day that the workers of Harland & Wolff heard the news that a new owner had been found for their company, the fears of the workers at Wrightbus who were made redundant last week were laid bare.

Hundreds of them attended an innovative jobs fair in Ballymena but for some it was more in hope than expectation. Our interviews with the workers revealed the concerns of some that they didn't know where next month's mortgage payment was coming from.

For others, finding a job suited to their particular niche skills was proving difficult, but some were prepared to take virtually any job just to ensure a wage, even if it was less than they were earning previously at the bus makers.

It was a sharp reminder of how redundancy can affect many more people than just the workers. It may have been 1,200 men and women who lost their jobs but there is perhaps twice as many more who depended on their income and who now wonder what the future holds.

Credit must go to Mid and East Antrim Council for organising the jobs fair at such relatively short notice. And some 80 employers turned up with 1,900 vacancies. That was an amazing response to the latest jobs crisis in the Co Antrim town.

The absence of a devolved government at Stormont has given politics and politicians in the province a less than glowing reputation, but the local authorities have shown an ability to respond to crises in their areas and come up with innovative responses.

Of course only a portion of the vacancies on offer yesterday were in the manufacturing sector but at a time of desperation other jobs may well be considered.

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While the workers at Harland & Wolff are elated at their good news, they can empathise with the former Wrightbus employees. They set a never-say-die example in their fight for their jobs and deserve great credit for saving an iconic manufacturing brand.

Allied to an earlier announcement of work coming from a Royal Navy order, the purchase of the east Belfast company looks to have secured its future. But the new owners have done more than simply buy Harland & Wolff, more importantly they have pledged to create hundreds more jobs in an ambitious development plan.

Recent events have shown the perilous state of the manufacturing sector in Northern Ireland and the need for strategic plan to secure jobs.

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