Union hits out at MLAs over Ballymena JTI closure

The JTI factory in Ballymena is closing with the loss of 900 jobs
The JTI factory in Ballymena is closing with the loss of 900 jobs

A trade union representing staff at the doomed JTI facility on the outskirts of Ballymena has welcomed the firm’s pledge of a £5m fund to help cushion the blow of its pending closure – but has also blasted MLAs over the mass job cuts.

Unite also said its representatives had been “underwhelmed” by politicians’ reaction to the looming closure, and called on the Stormont government to match the funding with a £5m donation of its own.

Davy Thompson, Unite’s regional co-ordinating officer, hailed JTI’s move to “follow through” on the promised money, which is expected to help retrain staff and assist them into new jobs, plus the fact that a Unite shop steward is among the trustees of the money.

However, he added: “In the context where Ballymena faces the loss of a similar number of jobs in Michelin over the next 24 months, Unite is calling on the Northern Ireland Executive to match what JTI have put on the table and create a fund capable of meeting the challenges of the future.”

In addition, Invest NI – the public body tasked with boosting business in the Province – said: “This legacy fund will provide a significant resource for the community to help fund job creation and skills projects that will provide opportunities for future employment.

“Set alongside Invest NI’s existing range of support and advice, this will provide real potential to boost entrepreneurial activity in the region.”