200 job losses a further blow to manufacturing

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Close to 200 jobs are under threat across the province after three manufacturing firms confirmed redundancies.

Just a week after Michelin in Ballymena announced the phased rundown of its truck tyre facility by 2018 with the loss of 860 jobs, three more firms said they were shedding jobs.

Most are at Caterpillar where 50 full-time staff jobs and 50 agency posts will go across the firm’s three plants at Larne, Monkstown and west Belfast. In October the firm said 20 management and supervisor roles were to go.

Up to 48 are at risk at Londonderry textile business Invista while 42 are to go at Antrim based Schrader Electronics.

Claiming that manufacturing in the province was in crisis, leading union Unite said the losses would have further impact through the supply chain.

In a statement on the latest losses, US firm Caterpillar said weaknesses in the economies of some key markets were “impacting on global demand for a number of our products,” made at the former FG Wilson plants

“The company is therefore taking necessary measures during this time to help support the competitiveness and sustainability of the business for the future.”

It is understood the firm will look primarily for voluntary redundancies from among permanent staff across the three sites.

“We know this is difficult for our employees and their families, and resources will be provided to assist impacted employees during this transition,” the statemend continued.

Schrader, which produces hi-tech tyre pressure sensors for the world market, said it would be letting go 42 temporary employees recruited to the Carrickfergus plant before the end of the year.

The firm, which employs around 1,000 in the province, said it had increased its workforce late last year to meet a surge in demand and was now returning to its “standard manufacturing pattern”.

At Invista at Maydown, site manager Kevin Kelly said the aim was to reduce the current workforce of 380 by 35-48 through a voluntary process.

The measures at the plant which produces Lycra for clothing production, are part of a drive to improve productivity he said.

Unite regional co-ordinating officer Davy Thompson said the losses were the latest in a steady stream across the last year.

“Those who say Manufacturing in Northern Ireland is not in crisis are in denial. The apathy and inaction that have characterised the NI Executive’s approach to manufacturing must end now. In 2014, our manufacturing sector delivered more than £18 billion in external trade but our political representatives have sat on their hands in relation to the challenges facing the sector.

“In the last year, there have been significant job loss announcements at Bombardier-Shorts and Caterpillar who shed 140 jobs this time last year; as well as closures announced by Michelin, JTI and Sirocco.

“The net impact of these losses is likely to multiplied three times when indirect and induced jobs lost are included.

Stephen Kelly, CEO at employer group Manufacturing NI said the latest losses were not only a bitter blow for the manufacturing sector, but also for the many families affected.

“As demonstrated last week, this highlights the brittle nature of our manufacturing base and clearly signals the need to begin work on a manufacturing strategy to help mitigate future risks. A manufacturing strategy will help to sustain jobs and ensure Northern Ireland has a clear vision for the future within this sector.

“Emphasis must be placed upon creating a competitive environment in which both local indigenous and FDI manufacturers can flourish and grow.