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Union fights Caterpillar plan to cut 700 Northern Ireland jobs

1 December, 2020IndustriALL affiliate Unite the Union has condemned a plan by Caterpillar to cut 700 jobs at its site in Larne, Northern Ireland, and is calling on the government to develop an industrial strategy for the manufacturing sector.

US-based multinational construction equipment manufacturer Caterpillar has announced that it will cut 700 jobs from its facility at Larne, a port city close to Belfast in Northern Ireland. The job losses will be a severe blow to the region’s manufacturing capacity and to the wider local economy, as Caterpillar has a large supply chain in the area.

The workers who stand to lose their jobs remained at their posts throughout the Covid lockdown. They were were exempted from the lockdown as they were essential workers, producing equipment, including electrical generators, of vital importance to the health and social care sector in its fight to save lives and cope with the pandemic.

Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom, and is administered locally through the Northern Ireland Executive at Stormont. There have been multiple job losses in the region’s manufacturing sector, as well as a high profile campaign that saved the historic Harland and Wolff shipyard despite a lack of concrete support from Stormont or the UK government at Westminster.

Unite believes that losing jobs and productive capacity at Caterpillar will further undermine the region’s industrial base, and argues that Stormont must develop a strategy for the manufacturing strategy in conjunction with unions and business representatives.

Caterpillar has around 3,000 employees at four sites in Northern Ireland. The cuts in Larne are largely due to the company offshoring production to cheaper, non-EU locations, in a move Unite denounced as “corporate greed with no moral or ethical justification from a company which last year reported gross profits exceeding $17 billion.”

IndustriALL general secretary Valter Sanches wrote to the CEO of Caterpillar, saying:

“IndustriALL Global Union urges Caterpillar to reconsider its plan to offshore the production from Northern Ireland, UK and to engage in a meaningful dialogue with the Unite the Union to develop a common strategy to retain the productive capacity and avoid any job losses at the Larne facility.”

A global network of unions at Caterpillar was formed in 2011, lead by US affiliate the United Autoworkers. The network covers most countries where Caterpillar operates and participants are in constant contact. Caterpillar has already gone through harsh restructuring schemes over the past few years, cutting thousands of jobs around the world, including several European countries, the USA and Australia. The network met in October, before the Northern Ireland cuts were announced, and wrote to the company seeking global dialogue. The network immediately took up the Northern Ireland case, informing all participating trade unions about these new redundancies.

IndustriALL mechanical engineering director, Matthias Hartwich, said:

“Caterpillar has become one of the worst and greediest multinationals, with no respect for their workers, no decency and instead job cuts combined with high profits and dividends. This is shameful and unacceptable.”