First raft of JTI staff set to leave factory next May

JTI (Gallaher) Lisnafillan. BT24-198JC
JTI (Gallaher) Lisnafillan. BT24-198JC

Around two-thirds of staff at JTI Gallaher will leave the Ballymena factory next May, local councillors have been informed.

Of the 870 people employed at the Lisnafillan plant, 550 will leave in May with a further 260 being released in December 2016/January 2017.

Details were contained in an update to a committee of Mid & East Antrim Borough Council on work of the JTI Stakeholder Group which was established following the company’s plans to close the local factory in 2017.

Set up by Invest NI to consider the impact of the impending closure, the Group, whose membership is drawn from M&EA Council, JTI, DEL, NRC, Ballymena Business Centre and DARD, meets bi-monthly.

Members of Council’s Economic Growth & Development Committee were informed at their meeting, last week, that a firm appointed as an outsourcing agent by JTI to provide support for staff had completed initial consultations with each employee in July and will run awareness sessions from December in preparation for the first release of staff in May and that JTI had set aside a budget for training and development.

The update report pointed out that 15-20 suppliers and 80 agency staff will also be “impacted significantly” by the closure.

The factory has been a major employer in Ballymena for decades, but last October, the firm began consultations on proposals to close its facilities in Northern Ireland and Belgium.

In a statement at the time, JTI Gallaher said it was working in a challenging regulatory and operating environment and that it had “fought very hard” against plain packaging proposals in the UK, the EU’s Tobacco Products Directive 2 (TPD2) as well as the trade in smuggled cigarettes.

Earlier this year, JTI Gallaher turned down a trade union proposal aimed at saving some 500 jobs at the factory.

Unite had proposed turning the factory into a centre of excellence for pouch tobacco and cigar production, meaning about 370 redundancies.