Up to 860 Northern Ireland jobs are under threat with the announcement that Michelin Tyres is to close it's Ballymena plant in 2018.
The announcement from The Michelin Tyre PLC (TMTPLC) confirms the company passed the tipping point following the financial downturn of 2007, which saw the demand for its product decrease by more than five million units.
Michelin suggests the tyres market has suffered a serious blow following the constant influx of Asian tyres, increasing competition and challenging costs.
Furthermore, TMTPLC suggests the tyre building machines at Ballymena are not capable of sustaining the level of advanced production required by the market in the future, and that any possible investment to upgrade the plant has been considered but deemed prohibitive.
The closing of the Ballymena factory will see some 860 jobs axed in 2018 with The Unite union suggesting that “there are approximately 500 contractors and many more in the wider economy who now face the threat of redundancy as a result of this announcement.”
Unite regional coordinating officer, Davy Thompson commented: “This announcement is a cruel blow to the workforce in the mouth of Christmas and is devastating news for the North East economy and that of Northern Ireland as a whole.
“The proposal to close the plant comes within a year of a decision by JTI-Gallagher to close its Ballymena site with the loss of almost nine hundred jobs.”
Commenting on the local and regional repercussions, North Antrim MP Ian Paisley told the BBC it “cannot be understated how big a blow this is to the manufacturing industry in Northern Ireland.”
Michelin Tyre says it’s committed to supporting employees by providing enhanced redundancy payments and training and advice for an easier transition to their new employment.
TMTPLC also claims employees available to relocate will be offered a job in UK or in any of the Michelin European plants.
Michelin Tyre claims this is part of a larger plan which includes a £65m investment for an increased production at the Michelin’s Dundee factory and the modernisation of the Stoke-on-Trent site for improved logistics and warehousing infrastructures.
This series of investments, said TMTPLC, will allegedly lead to the creation of more than 100 new jobs in Dundee and Stoke-on-Trent.