May 1st: Responding to the announcement that Howden is to close their base in Belfast with the loss of 99 jobs, Davy Thompson, Regional Coordinating Officer for Unite pointed to the need for an alternative approach from the NI Executive.
“This announcement is a savage blow to the workforce. We are committed to securing the very best possible terms for all our members affected by this decision and keen to pursue any opportunities for redeployment provided by the company.
“This decision will end the company’s 134 year association with Belfast. With the announcement of the closure of the JTI factory in Ballymena, formerly Gallaher’s cigarettes, this means two of Northern Ireland’s oldest manufacturers have announced their closure in the period of six months; the loss of almost 300 years of manufacturing experience.
“Northern Ireland has lost almost two-thousand manufacturing jobs in the last year. We reiterate our concern at the risk of industrial ‘de-skilling’ – a process made more likely as a result of the brutal cuts to vocational FE places and apprenticeships.
“Since 2008, output from Northern Ireland’s manufacturing sector has shrunk. Many highly skilled workers who have lost their jobs struggle to find alternative employment.
“The owners appear to have made this decision exclusively on the basis of lowering operating costs. It is highly concerning that despite Northern Ireland having the lowest wages in the UK, we are still losing in the global race-to-the-bottom.
“This announcement highlights the need for Stormont politicians to get serious on ensuring an improved operating climate for the manufacturing sector addressing such concerns as high energy costs and transport delays as a result of traffic congestion. They also need to support the development of supply-chains which will help bind manufacturers to Northern Ireland”, Mr Thompson concluded.