MID and East Antrim Borough Council will provide its full support to all those impacted by this morning’s announcement regarding restructuring at Caterpillar, which, it is feared, could result in 700 job losses.
Moves being considered by the firm would impact staff at Caterpillar’s Larne plant, and if implemented, the transition of Caterpillar’s operations would begin this year and be completed over the next 12 to 18 months.
Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Councillor Peter Johnston, said: “This is devastating news for all those employed by Caterpillar, their families and our community.
“We are working closely with the firm and will be doing everything within our powers to help and support everybody affected by this announcement.
“Caterpillar is a major employer within our local economy, and is a giant of our manufacturing sector. The wider economic benefit it provides is hugely significant, including the supply chain.
“We will continue to work closely, through our Manufacturing Taskforce and our senior elected representatives, and we reiterate our full support for all those who face an anxious wait and uncertain future.
“This borough has a track record of continuing to fight, even when people think it’s over, and we have helped companies to remain open or seek alternatives, including most recently Wrightbus, the Kilroot and Ballylumford Power Stations, and the Michelin site.
“We will continue with this mindset in relation to these roles at Caterpillar.”
East Antrim DUP representatives Sammy Wilson MP, Gordon Lyons MLA and David Hilditch MLA have described the announcement of 700 job losses at Caterpillar in Larne as a ‘devastating blow’.
In a joint statement they said: “The news of 700 job losses at Caterpillar is a devastating blow for local workers, their families and manufacturing jobs in Larne. The sheer scale of the proposed job cuts will shock the community and leave many facing an uncertain future as we approach the Christmas period.
“We will be raising these job losses at Westminster, Assembly and Local Government level to ensure that all the necessary information and support which employees deserve is provided to them.
“Given the global nature of Caterpillar, it is also important that Invest NI engage directly with the company to identify if there are any circumstances were jobs can be retained or if jobs from within the company could be identified and brought to the Larne site.
“In the past, fabrication and administration jobs were identified and transferred to Larne and it is important that all options are explored.
“There is never a good time to learn of job losses on this scale, but the pain will be particularly acute given the time of year and the economic shock which has been cause by Covid-19.
“Working with our colleague, the Economy Minister, we will make sure that those affected get the support and advice they need at this difficult time”.
Ulster Unionist Economy Spokesperson John Stewart MLA has called on the Economy Minister to take action.
In particular, the East Antrim MLA has urged the Minister to bring forward the “long-overdue manufacturing strategy”.
Mr Stewart said: “The news that over the next 18 months up to 700 jobs are to go at the Caterpillar plant in Larne is devastating news not just for the workers and their families, but for the town and the wider East Antrim area.
“The Company is planning these redundancies over the next 18 months so it is vital that the Economy Minister Diane Dodds and Invest NI meet with senior management now to see what can be done to mitigate the losses.
“It is also essential that the Council’s Manufacturing Task Force steps up to work with Caterpillar employees to provide support and signposting to new training opportunities.
“On Monday in the Assembly the Ulster Unionist Party is bringing forward a motion recognising the great challenges facing local manufacturing industry and calling on the Economy Minister to detail the short to medium support measures that will be put in place to support the manufacturing sector through the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The motion also calls on the Minister to produce the long-overdue manufacturing strategy to help the long-term recovery of, and growth within the sector.
“Monday’s debate has to be the last time the issue of a manufacturing strategy is merely debated, because the time for talking has to stop. What we need now is action to implement a strategy to protect manufacturing jobs.”
Economy Minister Diane Dodds said: “The redundancies arising from the announcement by Caterpillar today are hugely disappointing. The potential loss of up to 700 jobs would be a devastating blow to the local economy and many hard working families.
“The situation has arisen as a result of a decision made by Caterpillar at corporate level. The announcement and potential job losses are not directly related to Brexit or Covid-19.
“The company has clearly stated their announcement is not a closure announcement. I have confidence in Northern Ireland’s capability and that the Caterpillar operation will continue to be a key contributor to the manufacturing and engineering base in Northern Ireland.
“Since 2000 Caterpillar has invested £135 million in Northern Ireland and been a major contributor to Northern Ireland’s reputation for manufacturing and engineering excellence.
“Invest NI will work with the Caterpillar Senior Management Team to mitigate potential impact on the Northern Ireland operation.
“The Department’s Careers Service is available to support those potentially impacted by offering free professional and impartial careers information, advice and guidance tailored to individual needs and helping people to explore future training and employment opportunities.
“Contact details for the Careers Service and information about where to access help are all available at https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/careers.”