FIFTY jobs are to go at the French-owned Thales facilities in Belfast and Crossgar, the firm said yesterday.
The cuts to the 520-strong workforce have arisen, the company said, as a result of falling orders from cash-strapped governments for the high-tech systems produced at the former Shorts Missiles Systems.
The news comes just a day after Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster praised the achievements of what has become a burgeoning aerospace sector in the Province, meeting growing demand from the global civil and military aviation industry.
However, while other divisions within Thales have also seen growth, global cutbacks in defence spending have impacted on the firm’s missiles division based in the Province.
Thales bought the business from Shorts in 2001 but it revealed yesterday that the division has not operated in profit since 2008.
On Monday the firm signed a multi-million pound deal with Thailand to supply the Starstreak missile to the Army but this sale is not sufficient on its own to offset the need to cut jobs, the firm said.
Phased over 2013, the redundancies will affect the main Belfast site where around 470 people work and also the testing site at Crossgar where around 40 people are based.
“Thales UK continually reviews its business activities to ensure it remains competitive, delivers shareholder value and is responsive to market demands,” the firm said.
“The current business environment is unlike anything we have experienced in recent years and prospects and programmes in our defence sector – both domestic and export – are experiencing significant reductions in volumes and workload.
“As a result we have regrettably announced to employees that we propose to lose up to 50 roles from the Belfast and Crossgar sites throughout 2013. This announcement launches our formal individual and collective consultation process on this proposal and we will work with trade union and employee representatives going forward.
“Thales UK is fully committed to managing the proposed changes fairly and respectfully, and we will make every effort to minimise permanent job losses and provide support to those affected.”