Workers at Coleraine Driver and Vehicle Licensing office whose jobs are under threat have said they are hopeful of a reprieve after a visit by First Minister Peter Robinson during which he said he was impressed by their sense of fight to keep their employment.
Staff members met with the DUP leader and MP for the area Gregory Campbell yesterday and put a number of options to him in the hope he can raise the issue with Prime Minister David Cameron.
Earlier this year a proposal was made to transfer all work from the Co Londonderry office to Swansea in Wales, a move which would result in the loss of 300 jobs.
At a meeting of the environment committee last month Alliance MLA Anna Lo said £22m a year would be removed from the Northern Ireland economy if the move went ahead.
Jonathan Holmes, who will have worked in the Driver and Vehicle Agency office for 13 years this week, said morale is currently low but added that staff will continue to press the issue.
“Mr Robinson told us he was impressed that we were putting up a fight for the jobs,” said the 33 year-old from Limavady.
Among the suggestions put to the First Minister were devolution of vehicle licensing to Northern Ireland, as well as highlighting the irony to the Prime Minister of removing jobs when he visits for an investment conference here later this month.
Mr Robinson said he would take the ideas on board, agreeing to raise the issue with Mr Cameron and speak to Finance Minister Simon Hamilton.
The office, one of the biggest employers in the Coleraine area, currently has husbands and wives working there, as well as a family which includes a mother, father and daughter in employment.
Amanda O’Donnell, 40, from Coleraine has worked in the DVA office for 21 years and is the branch secretary for NIPSA.
“I am hopeful for the future,” she said. “We have already seen all the parties agree to a motion opposing the proposal, and we have a trade union delegation travelling to London next month, so it is all very encouraging.”
Ms O’Donnell added that they have been told a decision may be made on the matter before Christmas.
“The local people are on our side, the politicians here are on our side, the Chamber of Commerce has backed us and we are hopeful we can retain these jobs,” she added.
Mr Campbell said: “There is an extremely strong case and cross-party support to retain the jobs.
“The DUP along with others have been campaigning on this matter directly with Government ministers in Westminster and I hope that the First Minister will be able to promote the workers’ case at an even higher level.”