An online campaign aimed at forcing the Executive to develop a cohesive plan to protect and grow manufacturing in the province has been launched in a joint manufacturers and union initiative.
The call comes as part of a collaboration between employers’ group Manufacturing NI and the union Unite who say the Executive must adopt a strategic approach to grow the manufacturing base here.
It was launched at the union’s offices in Belfast by Unite regional secretary Jimmy Kelly and Manufacturing NI CEO Stephen Kelly.
“Northern Ireland’s manufacturing sector employs more than 85,000 and contributes more than £18 billion in sales – of which £14bn are external,” said Stephen Kelly.
“An opportunity exists to do more, so it is vitally important that our politicians adopt an ambitious approach to create the conditions which will allow manufacturing to grow to 20% of the Northern Ireland economy creating jobs, increasing investment and quickly assisting the Executive to deliver a rebalanced economy which benefits the entire region.”
To do so, he said, required a strategy to ensure that high-value added manufacturing remained on the agenda involving real action to lower energy and transport costs, win foreign direct investment in the sector and to put the resources in to ensure the labour force has the skills needed for future success.
“There is even more need for such a strategy given the huge ramifications of Brexit for market access and labour mobility”, he concluded.
Pointing to the impact of recent high-profile job-losses and closures in the sector, Jimmy Kelly said 6,000 jobs had been lost in the past two years.
“These were among the best paid jobs in the region and will not be easily replaced by jobs of an equivalent value.
“While we recognise that the Executive is working to support the success of some leading manufacturers – this needs to be more consistent and applied across the entire sector.
“We need a different approach to procurement to ensure it works for local suppliers and efforts to grow supply-chains networks across the whole of Northern Ireland as well as enhanced allowances to encourage a step-change in capital investment.”
Representatives of workers and employers were coming together to demand the Executive takes a more comprehensive approach to growing the sector, he said.
“We are launching a postcard campaign and an online petition calling on the Economy and Finance Ministers to introduce an industrial strategy.
“We need continued focus and action to defend and grow our vital manufacturing base.”