Mayor of Mid and East Antrim Borough, Councillor Billy Ashe, has today (Friday) met with the Enterprise Minister Jonathan Bell, Minister for Employment and Learning Stephen Farry and Social Development Minister Mervyn Storey over the forthcoming closure of Ballymena’s Michelin Plant.
Mayor Ashe said the meeting was held “in order to agree a plan on how to deal with the recent job loss announcements at Michelin, on top of the planned closure of JTI.”
He said: “We had a productive meeting which saw all our Ministers work together and commit to do their best to support Mid and East Antrim Borough over the coming year.”
The Mayor was pleased with the agreement of the three Ministers that Mid and East Antrim Borough Council will co-ordinate a Task Force which will involve representation from their Departments.
Enterprise Minister Jonathan Bell said: “I very much welcomed the opportunity to meet with representatives from Mid and East Antrim Borough Council today. I understand this is an incredibly difficult time for all of those involved, including workers, local contractors and the wider Ballymena community.
“Since the announcement on Tuesday I have met with a number of key stakeholders including Ministerial colleagues, local representatives and Union officials. It is imperative that we all now look forward and to the solutions we can offer to help people find quality, alternative employment.
“Today, I and my Ministerial colleagues Mervyn Storey and Dr Stephen Farry also met with senior Michelin officials in order to explore all possible options and work with them to provide the best support both in the short and long term for all affected.
“The company has already committed to supporting its employees to find alternative employment with its £5m development fund and it is imperative that we all work together with Mid and East Antrim Borough Council to ensure the opportunities this creates for affected staff are fully maximised.”
The Employment and Learning Minister, Dr Stephen Farry said: “We have held a very constructive meeting with the senior management of Michelin. The company is fully aware of all the services available through my Department to help those affected by Tuesday’s announcement.
“Over the coming months, I will ensure that my officials liaise closely with Michelin to manage the process and ensure that the best advice, help and support are offered directly to all those affected employees and to ensure they are fully aware of available employment, training and education opportunities.
“The Department is available to offer services such as job clinics, skills audits, professional careers advice and assistance for staff through the Redundancy Advice Service.
“Those affected by the proposed redundancies have high technical skills, good employability skills and a wealth of experience and during the meeting, I also emphasised the key role the further education sector, in particular the Northern Regional College, can play in providing re-training and if required gaining accreditations.”
“I assured Councillor Ashe of my Department’s full support as the Council continues to mitigate the effects of this announcement on the local community.
“As Chair of the Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering Services Working Group, I will also ask members to consider if any of their current or future vacancies will be suitable for any of the skilled Michelin staff,” Minister Farry added.
The Social Development Minister Mervyn Storey MLA said: “This has been an incredibly difficult time for North Antrim, particularly in the light of last year’s announcement by JTI. Companies like Michelin and JTI have made Ballymena the vibrant and thriving town that it is and that it will continue to be in years to come.
“I welcome today’s opportunity to meet with Michelin management and with Mid and East Antrim Borough Council to discuss how collectively we can work together to achieve the best possible outcomes for the affected staff and external contractors.”
The meeting was also attended by Mid and East Antrim Borough Council’s Chief Executive, Anne Donaghy and Shelley Pinkerton Strategic Advisor for Economic Development and Tourism Development.