Union lays blame for decision on Executive inaction despite repeated warnings to act on energy costs and investment
November 3rd: Davy Thompson, Unite Regional Coordinating Officer expressed his union’s deep regret over the announcement by Michelin that it planned to close its Ballymena plant with the loss of eight hundred and sixty jobs:
“This announcement is a cruel blow to the workforce in the mouth of Christmas and is devastating news for the northeast economy and that of Northern Ireland as a whole. The proposal to close the plant comes within a year of a decision by JTI-Gallagher to close its Ballymena site with the loss of almost nine hundred jobs.
“In addition to the eight hundred and sixty workers who are directly employed by Michelin on the site, there are approximately five hundred contractors and many more in the wider economy who now face the threat of redundancy as a result of this announcement. These were highly-paid, secure jobs reflecting the progressive employment practices of Michelin and their loss will devastate the retail and services economy in this region.
“Unite has repeatedly demanded action from Ministers in relation to the high energy costs, the protracted difficulties experienced by Michelin in obtaining a connection for a proposed combined-heat power plant and the pressing need for capital support to modernise the plant. Ministerial inaction has resulted in a situation where high energy costs have left the Ballymena plant having the second lowest operating efficiency and now facing closure.
“A Unite delegation met Minister Bell in July to raise our concerns for employment at Michelin as well as the need for a proactive Manufacturing strategy but we are still awaiting his response to our specific proposals or any commitment to such a strategic approach to the sector. Sadly, this devastating news is not unexpected but is reflective of the failure by the NI Executive as a whole to act.
“Given the long lead-in time until the plant is proposed to be closed, Unite is hopeful that we might convince Michelin to reverse this decision. We believe that there can still be a future for Michelin in Ballymena and we will put the same effort to save these jobs as we did in the case of JTI-Gallagher a year ago. Even at this late stage, we remain hopeful that corporate management may reconsider their decision to close this site if the NI Executive intervenes decisively to address the underlying reasons for this decision”, Mr Thompson concluded.