An alternative to closing the JTI Gallaher factory in Ballymena has been put forward by the Unite trade union.
The plant is being wound down as part of a restructuring programme announced by its Japanese owners Japan Tobacco International – with closure set to take place between 2016 and 2018.
Production will then shift to Poland or Romania.
The union proposal would see the factory developed as a ‘centre of excellence’ for pouch tobacco and cigar manufacture, retaining 500 of the 876 jobs at the site.
Unite regional secretary Jimmy Kelly said on Tuesday: “Unite has sought to develop a viable alternative which would see as many jobs as possible retained at Lisnafillan – we are now bringing that to our members at the factory to secure their agreement.
“JTI indicated that closing the plant would result in cost savings of $89 million a year.
“Our counter-proposal would realise cost savings of $60 million through the loss of jobs for cigarette manufacture, the adoption of lean production for pouch tobacco and cigar production at Lisnafillan, and concessions on the issue of worker terms and conditions.
“At all times, our union seeks to secure the very best for our members and it is not easy for us to bring forward a proposal which will see significant concessions in terms and conditions as well as large-scale redundancies.”
Mr Kelly added: “Our proposal would save JTI approximately $150 million in capital and other transition costs and would significantly reduce the redundancy costs associated with all 876 workers losing their jobs.
“Over the next two days, Unite will seek agreement from our membership for our proposal.”