It has emerged that workers at the JTI factory in Ballymena broke all production records at the facility - in the very same month that the firm announced its intention to pull out of Northern Ireland.
Large screens within the Lisnafillan Plant highlighted the ‘record-breaking’ achievement last week - prompting a contemptuous response from the workforce who are facing redundancy over the next two years.
“You can guess the response of workers on the floor when they saw these screens go up,” said one staff member. “Talk about a kick in the teeth. The best production team are getting the heave-ho. It has struck a few raw nerves.”
Meanwhile, North Antrim MP Ian Paisley has confirmed that Prime Minister David Cameron has agreed to meet with him to discuss the forthcoming closure of JTI/Gallaher’s tobacco factory.
Speaking after a private meeting on the same issue with Secretary of State Theresa Villiers, last week, in Westminster, he commented: “I have now had constructive meetings with the NI Executive, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, Vince Cable MP to discuss the closure.
“I am delighted that David Cameron has now agreed to meet with me personally regarding Lisnafillan. The opportunity to relay our argument directly to the Prime Minister himself is very encouraging and I look forward to discussing the issue of plain packaging with him and listening to what he has to say.”
Last week, Mr Paisley was accompanied to his meeting with the Secretary of State by a union representative from the Ballymena plant.
It was pointed out that the meeting was ‘to discuss in further detail what the government could still do to try and preserve jobs at the factory and discuss the decisions that are still to be made over the government’s potential implementation of plain packaging of tobacco products’.
It was announced last month that the JTI-owned plant at Lisnafillan in Ballymena will be shutting down over the next two years with the loss of some 900 jobs.