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FG Wilson Job Losses Slammed

18/09/12

John McCuskeréirígí Béal Feirste spokesperson John McCusker has slammed the recent news of 760 job cuts at engineering firm FG Wilson. When added to a previously announced loss of 160 jobs, this takes the total to 920 – almost one-third of the company’s workforce in the Six Counties. The company also announced last week that it was to move much of its production work to China, with the possibility of even further huge job losses within the next two years.

FG Wilson operates facilities in west Belfast, Larne and Monkstown. The company is a subsidiary of the US-based corporation Caterpillar, which claimed that the announcement of mass lay-offs was a result of a turndown in the global demand for diesel generator sets. However last year FG Wilson doubled its profits to £7.8 million.

Commenting on the news, John McCusker said, “FG Wilson has received direct subsidies from the public purse through Invest NI over the past decade to the tune of £24 million, which included a £12 million investment towards a centre of excellence that was supposed to create hundreds of new jobs. Additionally, it is believed that the company also took advantage of tax-breaks amounting to over £10 million and, during the same period, the company’s directors were paid several million pounds.

“Equally astounding were the comments of Alastair Hamilton, chief executive of Invest NI, whose task is to create employment but who publicly defended the company’s actions. Hamilton stated in several radio and television interviews that if he had been in charge of FG Wilson he would have made the same decision. That should surely pose a major question mark over his ability to remain in post.

“760 workers are due to lose their jobs by Christmas. FG Wilson is a major employer here in west Belfast and workers have expressed the very real concern that the main facility at Springvale could be completely gone by this time next year. The company’s treatment of its workforce has been deplorable.

“This action by FG Wilson, and the equally deplorable response by Invest NI, is an indictment of the Six-County political establishment. Already Stormont ministers and bosses’ organisations like the Confederation of British Industry [CBI] have used this move to call for the lowering of the corporation tax rate in the Six Counties.

“Stormont politicians regularly attend junkets around the world where they try to sell the Six Counties as a suitable location for foreign direct investment. The Six Counties is sold as ‘competitive’ – i.e. cheap – as well as having a ‘pro-business climate’. Substantial subsidies are offered to companies from the public purse via Invest NI. And for all that we have no shortage of examples of companies, such as Seagate, Coca-Cola, Nortel and now FG Wilson, who take every subsidy and incentive on offer before inevitably upping sticks and settling somewhere where the labour costs are even cheaper. Reducing the corporation tax rate will only exacerbate this greedy, profit-driven ‘grab and run’ culture.”

McCusker continued, “The Six Counties continues to exist as an economic basket case. The unemployment rate carries on growing with 129,000 people now seeking work – a figure which Stormont politicians consistently refuse to acknowledge. On top of that, another 67,000 workers are currently under-employed – that is, they’re not getting enough hours in their workplaces and are struggling because of it. That figure is almost double what it was four years ago, as is the unemployment rate. It is a stark reality that almost one-third of households in the Six Counties have a total weekly income of less than £300 per week.

“The Stormont administration has proven itself a willing stooge of successive New Labour and Tory governments and their neoliberal economic agenda. Ultimately the colonial, partitionist set-up will have to go, and be replaced by a new system that serves the interests of workers and not the interests of capital. Right now, if the workforce at FG Wilson chooses to fight to save their jobs, or at the very least to ensure a realistic and reliable redundancy package from the bosses, éirígí will support them in their struggle.”

 

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