More than 200 jobs are to be cut in Northern Ireland by US manufacturing firm Caterpillar in a move that may result in the closure of its Monkstown plant in Newtonabbey.
Caterpillar is the biggest manufacturer of heavy construction equipment in the world and employs around 1,800 people in Northern Ireland.
The firm also has other sites in Belfast and Larne and has been affected by a downturn in oil exploration and mining, which has led to a fall in demand for its products. In Northern Ireland, a lot of its work involved the manufacture of diesel generators.
Although the firm insists that it remains committed to Northern Ireland, it said that it will also end the production of 25 tonne and larger material handlers in Northern Ireland, including the planned launch of large material handler models for Europe.
The company said: This re-structuring is part of our on-going plans to reduce cost in response to current economic and business conditions. Despite these contemplated actions, we will stay in Northern Ireland. In fact, these changes will make us more efficient and competitive over the longer term.
James Brokenshire, Northern Ireland Secretary of State, said that the government intends to help those who will lose their jobs, adding that he has had discussions with the executive on how we can work together to help prevent future losses and bring new employment opportunities.
Davy Thompson of the trade union Unite said the announcement should be a turning point for the Northern Ireland Executiveâs industrial policy, adding that real action is required to help a beleaguered sector. Thousands of experienced, highly skilled â and now redundant â manufacturing workers need appropriate employment opportunities. Giving up on manufacturing is not an option for these workers or the communities, which face post-industrial futures.