Plans by US firm Caterpillar to shed jobs at its Larne site should be seen as a “temporary setback”, it has been claimed.
The manufacturing giant told its workforce last Thursday that it will begin consultations regarding 65 proposed voluntary redundancies, including 20 at the Larne plant, 30 at Monkstown and a further 15 at its Springvale site in Belfast.
Caterpillar NI’s workforce numbers around 2,000.
A spokesman for the firm attributed the decision to “weaknesses in the economies of some key markets”, which he said are impacting on demand for some of Caterpillar’s products.
He said: “The company is therefore taking appropriate measures during this time to help ensure the competitiveness of the business.”
The spokesman added that management would be “working with employees and their representatives to try to minimise the numbers impacted”.
Caterpillar also announced that an unspecified number of temporary agency workers will be leaving the company over the next few months. The Unite union has claimed that 75 agency workers are involved.
East Antrim MLA Roy Beggs said he was “optimistic” that the planned redundancies are “a temporary setback in what has been a success story for the local economy over the past two years”.
Alliance MLA Stewart Dickson MLA said he was disappointed at the announcement, but added: “I am convinced that Caterpillar’s commitment to Northern Ireland remains strong.”
Sinn Féin MLA Oliver McMullan said: “I will be asking for clarity on Caterpillar’s plans for its future at Larne and seeking to allay the fears of the workers at the plant.
“Larne is an area that cannot afford to lose any more jobs and I would encourage Caterpillar to work with unions to ensure the future of the company in the area.”
Alastair Ross MLA commented: “It is important that we continue to support the company, who remain one of the most significant employers in Northern Ireland, to help them retain global competitiveness and attract new production lines to the plants in Monkstown and Larne, which will help grow the workforce again in the future.”
Back in September 2012, Caterpillar (then operating as FG Wilson), axed 760 jobs across NI.
But the company has since poured millions of pounds into its operations in the province,
Earlier this year, Caterpillar invested £5.4m in its Larne factory, expanding the company’s NI truck parts manufacturing operation.