Job rallies sending out ‘desperation message’ which Ballymena does not need - O’Loan

Declan O'Loan. INBT 22-130JC
Declan O'Loan. INBT 22-130JC

High profile job demonstrations are sending out a ‘message of desperation about Ballymena’, a local councillor has warned.

SDLP Councillor Declan O’Loan contended that rallies and public meetings are not the solution to the major job losses which are coming at JTI and Michelin.

He said: “It is understandable that the unions want to draw attention to the job losses, but this is the time to concentrate on practical action, not words.

“Already significant steps are under way. A further point is that high profile rallies and meetings may send out a message of desperation about Ballymena which is not what we need at all. We need to get on with the solid behind the scenes work which is the only thing that will produce dividends. I am under no illusion about the seriousness of the task, and I don’t think any other Council member needs any further persuasion either.

He added: “Mid and East Antrim Council is coordinating a Task Force, involving its own staff and those from the Departments of Enterprise, Trade and Investment, Employment and Learning, and Social Development. They will start work on jobs clinics, skills audits, professional careers advice, re-training especially Northern Regional College courses, formal recognition of existing skills, and redundancy advice.

The companies have committed to support for the workers themselves, Michelin providing a £5 million development fund, and JTI appointing consultants to deliver an employment support programme.

“These initiatives need to be given time to work. I am under no illusion about the seriousness of the task, and I don’t think any other Council member needs any further persuasion either. Replacing these jobs will not be easy.

“It is likely that progress will be made in lots of small initiatives across many companies including new ones, though INI will be marketing the sites and work forces as ‘going concerns’.

“The recent success of the Council in getting a Science Park investment of £1.6 million is an excellent step.”