‘It is vital we make a case for Caterpillar to stay in Larne’

Larne Borough Council issued a statement this week saying it ‘has put every resource in place’ to address the shock announcement made by Caterpillar last week that jobs at its Northern Ireland headquarters in Larne will be lost.

A series of emergency meetings to “ensure a co-ordinated response” to the FG Wilson/Caterpillar job cuts announcement have already taken place.

The local authority is working in partnership with key players such as LEDCOM, Invest Northern Ireland and Department for Employment & Learning on a co-ordinated ‘Team Larne’ approach which includes:

- Engaging with FG Wilson/Caterpillar to ensure the maximum amount of help and support is available to help individuals affected by the situation

- Seeking clarity on the number of job losses, location and skills profiles of those affected so as to target support effectively

- Co-ordinating a support response for local employees affected by the situation; to include information/signposting, advice, training & mentoring through clinics, Jobs Clubs and bespoke initiatives

- Developing/supporting job creation opportunities through Jobs Fairs, small business support, self-employment and social enterprises.

- Advocacy/lobbying on behalf of Larne residents affected by the job losses to include additional NI Executive support for the Larne and East Antrim area, promoting the business case for Larne as a business investment location.

At a special meeting of the council, held on Friday with East Antrim MLAs and local MP Sammy Wilson in attendance it was resolved “That this council establishes a local economic taskforce involving all of the relevant government departments and that the appropriate ministers be invited to either meet with council or receive a delegation from council, to seek both their support for the establishment of the taskforce and their assistance in moving forward”.

There was unanimous support for the resolution by councillors who are seeking the full support of DETI, DSD, DEL, Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minster.

Commenting on the situation and the initiative being taken by the council, chief executive Geraldine McGahey said: “We recognise the shock and impact of the announcement within local families, community, shops, service businesses and supply chain companies and understand only too well the implications this news has across the whole community here.

“The council is leading a ‘Team Larne’ co-ordinated response with our partners in LEDCOM, Invest NI and DEL as it is vital that we make the business/economic case for Larne in terms of retaining the Caterpillar facility in Larne, whilst unique skills base we have and the workforce available.

“There is an urgent need to diversify the Larne economy through maximising support for existing small businesses, self-employment and social entrepreneurship.

“As part of the Team Larne Task Force initiative there will every effort to provide maximum support to local people with a local support package being drafted which can be effectively communicated and delivered to local people affected by the situation.

“We will be seeking to work with other local authorities which will be impacted by the situation, particularly Carrickfergus and Newtownabbey,” the chief executive said.