THERE was a further blow to the Lisburn economy this week when Montupet announced 40 jobs are to be axed at the Dunmurry car parts factory.
The news came in the same week new government figures showed 841 people have joined the dole queue in Lisburn in the past year. The total number of people claiming benefit in the city last month was almost 2,000 - up 75% on 12 months ago. In December 65 more people registered bringing the total to 1,548 men and 414 women. Speculation had been rife that cuts would be made after Montupet closed for an extended period over the Christmas holidays. And this week management announced the start of a 30 day consultation period, with some 40 jobs expected to be cut.
A meeting was held on Wednesday between Montupet (UK) Ltd and representatives from AMICUS/UNITE Trade Union and the ICE Committee, who have been advised the likely number of jobs at risk includes Hourly Paid and Staff employees
The company said it was "regrettable" that redundancies are necessary but said it was due to a further substantial reduction in demand. The company makes cast aluminium cylinder heads for the Peugeot 206, Citroen Picasso and Ford bestsellers such as the Focus and Mondeo.
They also stated they would be inviting volunteers for redundancy before making any compulsory redundancies and that the Company also requires an extended period of short time or an alternative method to reduce the working days for the first half of the year." A spokesperson for Montupet added: "Montupet regrets having to take these current measures to adjust production to the reduced customer demand, and recognises the impact it will have on employees. However we believe it is vital to react now to ensure the long-term future of the Company."
Terry Collins from the AMICUS/UNITE trade union said the chances of reducing the number of job losses during consultation did not look good.
"Unfortunately we are all aware of the significant problems in the car industry," he said. "They have indicated a substantial downturn in their forecasts for 2009, in some departments up to 40% below what they had hoped to produce."
Dunmurry Councillor Brian Heading expressed concern about the implications of the job losses on the local economy. "This is a serious blow to those families and the local Assembly must act to reduce the impact of any redundancies in the area," said Mr Heading.
"These jobs losses will have a major impact to the local economy and its effects will be felt beyond the factory gates. The Assembly
must act to protect the remaining jobs and to provide training for those staff that face redundancies in order to be re-employed as quickly as possible. I call on the local political parties to meet together to formulate a plan to save these jobs and ensure the factory's survival."
Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson said he was concerned about the situation at Montupet and would be renewing discussions with both the company and the trade unions.
"I have met with Montupet on a number of occasions to discuss their trading situation at Dunmurry and I have also had discussions with the trade unions.
"I will be renewing those discussions to see what assistance can be given to the company to ensure the remaining jobs are safeguarded and that this valued employer is retained in Dunmurry."