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Michelin closure 'apocalyptic' news for almost 900 workers

The company’s factory in Ballymena is set to close by 2018.

Updated: 9:40am

THE CLOSURE OF a Michelin tyre factory in Northern Ireland has been described as a “tragic blow” for the 860 employees set to lose their jobs.

The French company announced yesterday that it will be winding down its plant in Ballymena, Co Antrim, over the next three years, with closure pencilled in for 2018.

The company said it is reorganising its operations across Europe and that its Northern Irish operation has been experiencing difficulties for several years.

The MP for the area, Ian Paisley Jnr, described the news as “apocalyptic” for workers and said the job losses will mean the loss of millions of pounds of wages in north Antrim every year.

“It cannot be overstated how big a blow this is to the manufacturing industry in Northern Ireland,” Paisley said.

Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said they would do everything they could to support those affected by the plant’s closure.

“Just over a year ago the workers of JTI Gallaher in Ballymena received similar news and so this combined with today’s announcement is a real body blow to the local economy,” they said in a joint statement.

‘Downturn in business’

In a statement yesterday, Michelin said its Northern Irish plant has faced difficult logistical issues due to its location, and high production costs due to the price of energy.

Since 2007, it said it has seen a “significant downturn” in business across its European operation – with the market decreasing by more than 5 million tyres.

The group currently employs 65,000 people across 40 production sites in Europe.

The company stated that its Antrim plant is “not capable of making the high tech tyres of the future”, and that upgrades to machinery would be prohibitively expensive.

Rather than cutting back at all of its European plants, Michelin said it will be focusing its attention on more competitive sites, investing €65 million into UK factories in Stoke-on-Trent and Dundee.

Some €52 million will be invested into the plant in Dundee to upgrade it into a state-of-the-art factory, allowing the manufacturer to produce larger tyres.

Investment at the Stoke-on-Trest plant will see a 53,000 square metre plant built.

Around 100 new jobs will be created across both sites.

First published 3 November. Additional reporting by Catherine Healy. 

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