Business

Last link to Sirocco Works to close doors

Sirocco Works was a major part of Belfast's industrial revolution at the turn of the 20th century

ONE of Belfast's last surviving links to the historic Sirocco Works is to close more than 130 years after the former industrial giant first opened.

Howden - formerly Sirocco Engineering - in east Belfast said it was moving some production to Glasgow but that staff would be offered alternative employment.

It could mean up to 100 job losses at the American-owned company which makes fans and heat exchangers and has premises in 17 countries.

As part of our ongoing efforts to align our business with the needs of customers, Howden has carefully reviewed all of our operations and propose to close our Belfast factory, with some of the current functions and roles transferring to our Renfrew site," the company said.

"The company will fully consult on the proposals with employee representatives and trades union representatives immediately, and with individuals potentially affected thereafter.

"The purpose will be to look at opportunities to minimise the impact of these changes to our associates and the company will endeavour to offer suitable alternative employment to those affected if possible."

The firm recently announced its UK-based compressor operations would move on to a single site this year.

"Our 2014 strategic review also highlighted the fact that we have significant overcapacity in our divisional manufacturing footprint and at the same time, the markets in which we operate are steadily changing," it added.

"This shows no sign of improving with the vast majority of sales opportunities being in lower cost regions such as China, India and South East Asia where local, low cost suppliers are a major threat to our market."

The factory was formerly known as Sirocco Engineering and was part of Sirocco Works which was founded in the city in 1881 by inventor and engineer Samuel Davidson.

The Unite union said the closure showed not enough was being down to support manufacturing.

Its regional officer Davy Thompson said it was "a savage blow to the workforce".

"This decision will end the company's 134 year association with Belfast," he said.

"With the announcement of the closure of the JTI factory in Ballymena, formerly Gallaher's cigarettes, this means two of Northern Ireland's oldest manufacturers have announced their closure in the period of six months; the loss of almost 300 years of manufacturing experience."

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