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Caterpillar will cut up to 250 jobs and close Monkstown plant

Caterpillar's facility in west Belfast PICTURE: Hugh Russell

CATERPILLAR has announced plans to cut up to 250 jobs in Northern Ireland.

The restructuring will take place over the next two years and will likely also see the closure of its plant in Monkstown.

The company, which makes diesel generators, truck axles and material handlers, said it will consolidate work at its facilities in west Belfast and Larne.

It follows weakening demand for its products across the world in recent years, including in key markets such as China.

It plans to stop producing 25-tonne and larger material handlers in Northern Ireland while the planned launch of large material handler models for Europe is also off the cards.

The company's vice-president with responsibilities for global power solutions Tom Frake said: “We recognise that what we are considering is difficult for our employees, their families and the communities where they live and work. Despite these contemplated actions, we remain committed to Northern Ireland. In fact, these potential changes would make us more efficient and competitive over the longer term as we adapt to the weak market conditions."

Robert Kennedy, Caterpillar’s director of operations in the north added: “The difficult actions we are considering in Northern Ireland are not a reflection of the quality of our dedicated workforce, the support of the local community, nor the business climate in Northern Ireland.”

The American-owned manufacturer is the world's largest maker of heavy plant machinery.

It has been restructuring its businesses as demand slows for construction, mining, and energy and transportation products, and since the middle of last year it has slashed 13,900 jobs worldwide.

The company had cancelled night-shifts at its Springvale factory, off the Springfield Road to allow workers attend today's meeting.

The company employs 1,800 people at three centres across the north and it has around 9,000 on the payroll of 20 major facilities across the UK.

Since 2011 Caterpillar has shed more than 1,000 jobs in Northern Ireland.

In July Caterpillar posted a 16 per cent drop in total sales to $10.34 billion (£7.9bn) for the second quarter. Energy and transportation sales fell 20 per cent to $3.750 billion (£2.9bn) as oil prices dropped.

While sales were down in almost all of its end markets, almost 80 per cent of the decline was in oil and gas and transportation, a senior company executive said.

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