Allister: ‘I warned about Michelin costs three years ago but nothing was done’

Press Eye - Northern Ireland - 3rd November 2015''Photographer: Stephen Hamilton''General views Michelin factory in Ballymena,''Michelin, Ballymena,  Bad news expected ahead of staff meeting today. The'company has not said what the meeting is for, but political sources have'told the BBC "bad news" is expected.'The factory, which has been operating in the town since 1969, employs about'1,000 people.

Press Eye - Northern Ireland - 3rd November 2015''Photographer: Stephen Hamilton''General views Michelin factory in Ballymena,''Michelin, Ballymena, Bad news expected ahead of staff meeting today. The'company has not said what the meeting is for, but political sources have'told the BBC "bad news" is expected.'The factory, which has been operating in the town since 1969, employs about'1,000 people.

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TUV leader Jim Allister warned three years ago that high energy prices were hanging like a sword of damocles over Michelin’s Ballymena operation.

Mr. Allister noted he had met with senior management at Michelin back in April 2012 and had subsequently warned of potential job losses.

In statement released on Friday, Mr. Allister referenced an article carried by the Ballymena Times on that very issue.

At the time, he stated: “One issue on which Michelin in Northern Ireland is facing extra pressure is our higher and extortionate energy prices. Michelin demonstrated in its meeting with MLAs that in contrast to its GB plants, energy costs for its Ballymena operation are up to 50% higher. This is intolerable and is contributed to by the wrong-headed energy policy being pursued by the Stormont Executive. The facts are indisputable: since the Executive committed us to the all-island Single Electricity Market our prices have diverged from the lower GB prices to align more with the higher ROI prices. Why? Because in large measure we are subsidising the Republic’s highly inefficiently and costly generation and transmission systems.

“Competitive energy prices are imperative for a high consumption operator like Michelin. Thus, every penny in difference in the unit price of electricity makes a huge difference. These higher electricity prices are placing Michelin at Ballymena at a disadvantage in its internal competition with other Michelin plants and external competition with other tyre producing companies.

“I commend Michelin, which has been a lynchpin of the local economy for 42 years, for its commitment to North Antrim and look forward to it continuing to provide vital and worthwhile employment. But DETI and the Utility Regulator must help by facing up to the present regime of unbearable energy prices.”

Speaking today, Mr. Allister contended that he had raised the high price of electricity in Northern Ireland repeatedly raised in the Assembly.

“This can be demonstrated from the record. Sadly DETI has failed to listen and is instead focused on chasing the moonbeam of corporation tax devolution. If Stormont dealt with the powers it already had and took genuine steps to assist business it would be much more meaningful.”

Click here to see a report on Jim Allister’s comments in April 2012.