Business

Fears for Caterpillar's west Belfast plant amid job cuts

US-owned construction equipment giant Caterpillar is reducing its 126,000-strong workforce by 8 per cent

THERE are fears global manufacturer Caterpillar may axe its west Belfast plant as it announced massive job cuts across the world.

The American-owned construction equipment giant said yesterday it is reducing its 126,000-strong workforce by 8 per cent.

Hundreds of jobs in Northern Ireland could go as part of the restructuring.

The company employs around 2,000 people at three centres across the north and has 9,500 on the payroll of 20 major facilities across the UK.

The firm has not been explicit about where the jobs losses will occur or which centres it will shut.

However, staff at its Springvale factory off the Springfield Road have voiced concerns over the future of the facility.

Caterpillar said it was "contemplating restructuring actions that could impact more than 20 facilities around the world and across our three large segments – construction industries, resource industries and energy and transportation".

"There are many factors that impact these contemplated decisions and the subsequent timing of when each would be announced and implemented. Employees will be notified as decisions are made for each facility," it added.

Caterpillar said it expected to lower operating costs by about $1.5 billion (£1bn) annually once fully implemented.

The process will begin late this year and come as the company’s sales and revenues outlook has weakened.

Caterpillar now anticipates sales and revenues will be about $48bn (£31.5bn), or $1bn (£656 million) lower than the previous outlook - with next year's sales and revenues forecast to be 5 per cent lower.

The company's chairman and chief executive Doug Oberhelman said: "We are facing a convergence of challenging marketplace conditions in key regions and industry sectors – namely in mining and energy,.

“While we’ve already made substantial adjustments as these market conditions have emerged, we are taking even more decisive actions now. We don’t make these decisions lightly, but I’m confident these additional steps will better position Caterpillar to deliver solid results when demand improves.”

It is the third consecutive year of falling sales while declining fortunes in 2016 would be a record run for the 90-year-old firm.

Since 2013, Caterpillar has closed or announced plans to close or consolidate more than 20 facilities and has reduced its workforce by more than 31,000 since mid-2012.

“We recognise today’s news and actions taken in recent years are difficult for our employees, their families and the communities where we’re located. We have a talented and dedicated workforce, and we know this will be hard for them,” added Mr Oberhelman.

Caterpillar has had a footprint in the north since 1989 when it bought over the FG Wilson business.

The company which was rebranded from FG Wilson in 2012 specialises in making diesel generators.

It has three plants in Northern Ireland at Monkstown, Larne and Springvale in Belfast.

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