ONE of Northern Ireland’s leading engineering firms is embroiled in a row with staff over support for a well-known military charity.
Some employees at FG Wilson had nominated Help For Heroes as their designated charity for this year.
But management at the firm turned down the request, claiming that the organisation directly supports a “political cause”.
Disgruntled staff and supporters are to stage a protest this morning outside the company’s Monkstown plant.
Help For Heroes, set up in 2007, has raised more than £120m for injured soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
In an email response – seen by the News Letter – to the request by employees, HR management at FG Wilson confirm they were unable to accept the nomination.
It says: “The company charity policy states that the company cannot accept requests from political or religious organisations and this charity directly supports a political cause.”
Newtownabbey community worker Phil Hamilton, who was approached by concerned staff, said the protest had been called to demand that FG Wilson “retract” their viewpoint. The former soldier accused the company of “burying their head in the sand”.
DUP councillor Robert Hill, an ex-member of the UDR, said he was “disgusted” by the action and has written to FG Wilson demanding it apologises immediately.
Slamming the ruling as “utterly ridiculous”, he said: “This charity does a great job to help soldiers get back into society and into work, and does an awful lot for their families as well.”
PUP spokesman Ken Wilkinson said: “A lot of employees are hot under the collar.
“I am totally and utterly disgusted. The armed forces are made up of many denominations, colours and creeds.”
In response to the controversy, Help For Heroes stressed it was “non-critical and non-political”.
Charity co-founder Bryn Parry said: “We understand that everyone has their own opinions and as such, we respect FG Wilson’s stance. We would like to take this opportunity, however, to clarify our charitable position.
“Help for Heroes is not here to pass judgment on whether war is right or wrong. We are simply here to support those whose service to the country has meant that they have experienced life-changing injuries.”
He added: “We are sorry to hear that the employees have been upset by this incident and would like to thank them for their continued support.
“We would like to wish FG Wilson the best for their fundraising in 2012.”
In a statement, a spokesperson for FG Wilson said: “Each year, FG Wilson employees nominate a ‘Charity of the Year’ upon which employees focus their fundraising efforts, supported by the company. Macmillan Cancer Support was the 2011 Charity of the Year.
“It is important that the nominated charity is in line with our commitment to promote a neutral work environment and will be embraced by our employee group on the whole, which includes people from a variety of backgrounds.
“This year, one of a large number of charities nominated was felt not to meet these requirements.”
It is understood that the company’s 2012 charity nomination has yet to be decided.