Caterpillar closing Irish factory and cutting up to 250 jobs
Caterpillar is closing its factory in Ireland and cutting between 200 and 250 jobs.
The US-manufacturing giant is restructuring its business here as part of global cutbacks across the business.
The company is closing its base at Monkstown in Newtownabbey outside Belfast, which employs around 250 staff.
It's understood the company will undergo a period of consultation to determine the spread of the job losses.
Some staff at the Monkstown facility — which is a sub-manufacturer of generators — will be offered work elsewhere at Caterpillar's Northern Ireland operations.
The generator maker, which employs approximately 1,800 staff, briefed staff this afternoon about job cuts at the business, which has three sites across the province.
Robert Kennedy, Caterpillar’s director of operations in Northern Ireland, said: "The difficult actions we are considering in Northern Ireland are not a reflection of the quality of our dedicated workforce, the support of the local community, nor the business climate in Northern Ireland."
The company has said that after "consultation with employees and their representatives, any redundant employees will receive severance packages from the company and outplacement services from appropriate agencies to ensure they have support during this transition".
The former FG Wilson business has operations spread across its base at Larne, as well as Newtownabbey and Springvale in west Belfast.
Tom Frake, Caterpillar vice president, said: "We recognise that what we are considering is difficult for our employees, their families and the communities where they live and work. Despite these contemplated actions, we remain committed to Northern Ireland.
"In fact, these potential changes would make us more efficient and competitive over the longer term as we adapt to the weak market conditions."
In 2013 Caterpillar announced it would create up to 200 new jobs for west Belfast to expand its support services.
Earlier that year the company said it would create 100 jobs by adding a new production line making the yellow-coloured Cat machines for which the company is most famous.
In September 2012, Caterpillar cut more than 700 jobs as it moved some manufacturing to China.
Last year, Caterpillar announced it was cutting around 120 jobs here.
Caterpillar previously warned that post-Brexit uncertainty could have a short-term hit on customer purchasing decisions.
Economy Minister, Simon Hamilton MLA said: “The decision by Caterpillar to seek 200-250 in redundancies as well as the potential closure of its plant at Monkstown is deeply disappointing. First and foremost I am mindful of the very direct and personal impact this devastating news will have upon the workers affected and their families.
“My department and Invest Northern Ireland will continue to work to minimise the impact on all those affected. Manufacturing is vitally important to the local economy and we are facing significant challenges which are not unique to Northern Ireland as a result of global pressures, market slowdowns and business restructurings.
“Caterpillar are clearly experiencing a significant and sustained downturn in their business globally which has seen their revenues decline by 21% in the last five years. These job losses in Northern Ireland are part of the overall reduction of 10,000 staff across the company. The difficulties experienced by Caterpillar have been public knowledge for some time. As a result, we have intensified our engagement with the company both locally and in the United States to ensure Caterpillar were fully briefed on the benefits as a manufacturing base and of the complete range of Government support available to them at this time.
“Between 1 April 2011 and 31 March 2016 Invest NI has provided over £270m of assistance to manufacturing firms here and I am determined to continue to support our manufacturing sector. My Department’s Careers Service will provide individuals with tailored, professional advice and guidance about the options and support available to them including employment, training and education opportunities.”
Unite's union Davy Thompson, said: "Unite will be fully engaging with Caterpillar management during the upcoming consultation period and will seek to minimise the impact of this announcement and secure our members’ employment.
"Last year, Caterpillar indicated that the five thousand redundancies it brought forward globally were likely to increase to ten thousand by the end of 2018. Unfortunately, our political representatives stood idly by and did nothing to minimise the threat this posed to Caterpillar’s Northern Ireland workforce. It is vital that we now see real action to safeguard as many jobs and lines of production as we can.
"The Northern Ireland Executive parties appear to believe that Manufacturing is a lost cause. They voted down proposals for a stand-alone strategy for the sector and there’s continued failure to win Foreign-Direct Investment in the sector.
"Thousands of experienced, highly-skilled and now redundant, manufacturing workers need appropriate employment opportunities. Giving up on manufacturing is not an option for these workers or the communities which face post-industrial futures."
East Antrim DUP MLA and Junior Minister Alastair Ross, said: "Clearly this is another difficult day for the Caterpillar workforce, particularly those in the Monkstown plant with significant job losses of up to 250 employees.
"I have been in contact with local management to see what support government can offer and to seek assurances on the future plans for Caterpillars presence in Northern Ireland."
Alliance MLA Stephen Farry MLA has said the loss of up to 250 jobs is a devastating blow to those affected.
"This is a devastating blow, both to the local areas directly affected by the job losses, but also to the wider Northern Ireland economy," he said.
"This is especially true as it comes in the wake of a number of other significant cuts to other major companies in the manufacturing sector in recent months.
"My immediate thoughts are with the affected workers and their families, who will be devastated by this news. There needs to be a clear vision from the Executive, not only for fully supporting the workers, but also what will be done to prevent further similar losses down the line.
"Although overall the manufacturing sector in Northern Ireland remains strong, today’s news is a further example of a major and long-established manufacturer experiencing massive difficulties.
"While the factors which have caused Caterpillar’s decision may relate to the ongoing situation in the global market, there are massive difficulties when trying to grow the manufacturing sector, given the implications of Brexit and the uncertainty of future access to the single market."
The job losses at Caterpillar are the latest in a line of big name international manufacturers to announce huge cuts across its business globally.
The expected job losses follow the announcement that 1,080 posts will go at aerospace giant Bombardier in the next two years
Around 860 positions will go at tyre giant Michelin when it closes its doors in 2018.
A similar number of jobs have also been lost at cigarette-maker JTI Gallaher's
A number of other firms, Schrader Electronics, both based in Co Antrim, have made substantial cutbacks.