SDC Trailers prepare to cut jobs amid Brexit uncertainty

SDC Trailers has announced plans to cut its workforce
Ryan McAleer

CO Antrim manufacturer SDC Trailers has announced plans to cut jobs blaming a number of economic factors, including the impact of Brexit uncertainty.

Monday's announcement by the Toomebridge-based company, came as the GMB Union claimed that 13,330 manufacturing jobs had been lost in the north since the financial crash.

SDC Trailers, which is largest manufacturer of semi-trailers in Britain and Ireland, was sold to CIMC Vehicles of China in 2016.

It currently operates five manufacturing plants, two trailer repair centres, nine branches for parts and two used trailer sales centres.

Earlier in the year, the group opened a new sales centre in Sutton-in-Ashfield, close to Mansfield.

The latest accounts filed by SDC Trailers show its workforce averaged at 693 during 2018. Parent firm CIMC Vehicles UK, which covers the group's UK-wide operations, including Toomebridge, had 877 workers on its books during 2018.

While the Co Antrim business reported a pre-tax profit of £6 million on the back of a turnover of £175m in 2018, the parent UK entity declared a pre-tax loss of £1.4m during the same period.

Last year saw the company invest £7m at Toomebridge, creating 50 new jobs and improving production capability.

The directors also said Brexit uncertainty had not materially impacted the company's performance to date.

But yesterday the company issued a statement indicating conditions had changed in recent months.

SDC Trailers said its workforce now stands at just over 800 people.

“In recent months, it is clear that the uncertainty of Brexit and other economic concerns has resulted in a slowing down of capital purchases from retailers, logistics firms and others,” said a company spokesperson.

“We have had to respond to this slowdown in demand by entering into a period of consultation with our employees with the unfortunate likely outcome being a number of employees being made redundant.

“We are unable to confirm numbers at this stage as the consultation process is still ongoing with our workforce.”

It's not clear how many jobs could be affected.

Set by John Donnelly in Bellaghy during 1978, the Derry man built the family-owned company into the Retlan Manufacturing Group before selling up for almost £100 million three years ago.

John Donnelly's son Darren was among the parties to express interest in acquiring troubled Ballymena manufacturer Wrightbus, before pulling out in September.

Meanwhile new analysis of official government jobs data by the GMB union suggests that 13,300 manufacturing jobs have disappeared in the north since 2007.

A total of 99,100 permanent and temporary manufacturing jobs were recorded in the of ONS annual population survey during mid-2007. By this year, the number had dropped by 13 per cent to 85,800.

The union has hit out at a lack of government-led industrial strategy and a failure to invest in jobs.

GMB is calling for procurement decisions to take account of tax and spending in the UK, as well as subsides paid to non-UK competitors.

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