After last week’s announcement that the Michelin factory in Ballymena is to close, hundreds of employees have been left counting the cost.
Newtownabbey is one of the areas that will be hit hardest by the closure, as many of the 860 employees are residents in the Antrim and Newtownabbey borough.
Neville Glass from Ballyclare has been employed by the company for 22 years. Along with the hundreds of other workers, the environmental waste controller at the site has been left weighing up his options.
“We didn’t have a clue that the announcement was going to be made. At 9am on Tuesday morning we were told to attend a meeting at noon. The first we knew something was up was when we saw a number of TV crews watching us as we made our way to the meeting.
“Before Tuesday we had no idea that the company was planning to close the factory. We thought that things were going well. I recently booked a family holiday to Portugal for two weeks in July. If I had known that my job was at risk I would not have booked my holidays,” he said.
The closure of the factory forms part of a restructuring plan that will see Michelin invest in its facilities in Dundee and Stoke-on-Trent. Employees from the Ballymena plant have been told that they can be relocated to sites in the UK or Europe.
“I myself will have to consider maybe Dundee as it’s going to be hard to get a job in Northern Ireland. I would have to travel over to Dundee and see the factory and the area to see if there is a possibility of going there,” Neville explained.
The announcement that the Michelin factory is to shut by mid-2018 comes after other employers including JTI have announced the closure of their sites in the region.
“It’s a shame that this country can’t keep big firms. Who will be next? Our politicians need to stop arguing among themselves and get investment in this country. If it was the politicians being made redundant they would soon get off their backsides and do something,” Neville added.
The Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey, Councillor Thomas Hogg, has sympathised with the workers.
“My thoughts are with the employees and their families, who are affected due to the closure of the Michelin factory in Ballymena. This leads on from the announcement of the closure of the JTI factory last year and will affect a large number of employees who are residents of our borough.
“It is a very sad situation and extremely disappointing however I can only be hopeful that as the business is continuing to trade until 2018, those affected will be able to explore other options available to them,” he said.