Northern Ireland news

Two firms announce 350 job losses in north

Schlumberger trucks. Alex Milan Tracy/Sipa USA/Newscom
Michael McHugh

AROUND 350 jobs have been lost after a water technology provider in Northern Ireland went into administration and a multinational manufacturer closed its Newtownabbey plant.

Williams Industrial Services Limited (WIS) is based in Mallusk and is one of Ireland's largest firms of its kind.

It specialised in water-treatment and anaerobic digestion technologies.

WIS chairman John Toner said all possible rescue options had been explored and he deeply regretted the move.

Stephen Cave from PwC in Belfast and Toby Underwood were appointed joint administrators.

Mr Cave said: "The company ran into a number of commercial issues on some of its key contracts in recent months, culminating in contractual disputes which had a significant and adverse impact on trading cashflow.

"Despite endeavours to resolve the matters and secure a way forward, the company ran out of funds, leaving the directors facing the decision to enter administration.

"Whilst we are urgently reviewing the company's financial and trading position, we have unfortunately had to make the majority of the workforce redundant with immediate effect."

The company employs approximately 145 people directly and has annual turnover which peaked at around £50 million.

A subsidiary employing 15 people is set to go into liquidation, the administrator added.

Meanwhile, more than 200 job losses have been confirmed at a manufacturing company in Northern Ireland, union leaders said.

Schlumberger, which constructs equipment used in the oil and gas industry, previously announced proposals to close its plant in Newtownabbey this year due to prolonged downturn in the industry.

Unite the Union warned 205 posts were doomed after the multinational confirmed to workforce representatives that it would reject a local management rescue bid.

Regional officer Susan Fitzgerald said: "This decision demonstrates very clearly that corporate profits are the only determinant when it comes to Schlumberger corporate management.

"Today they confirmed to workforce representatives that they had rejected a local management counterproposal which offered a way to save some of the jobs on site through production diversification.

"The proposal would have resulted in a significant increase in operating utilisation rates but was rejected by a corporate management who remain intent on offshoring production to low cost centres in Mexico and China and back to the United States."

The firm saw its revenue during the last three months of last year grow by 3 per cent. Cashflow for the whole year was worth US$5.7 billion, a recent statement said.

Ms Fitzgerald said: "Regardless of the huge profits that they have made from this workforce, Schlumberger's sole objective appears to maximise profits through a race to the bottom on labour costs."

The company previously blamed a slump in the sector and said the oil and gas industry was going through the most severe downturn of the past 30 years, with operators significantly reducing their investment.

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