Coronavirus: Call for Stormont to establish manufacturing taskforce as redundancies continue to rise

Sensata Technologies has already announced the closure of its Carrickfergus factory. On Friday it confirmed plans for a further 160 redundancies. Picture By Hugh Russell.
Ryan McAleer

JOB losses in the north's Covid-hit manufacturing sector continue to climb amid calls for Stormont to establish a taskforce to secure industry jobs.

Sensata Technologies became the latest company announce significant redundancies on Friday.

The US-owned car components manufacturer has said it will cut 160 jobs at its site in Antrim in response the impact of Covid-19 on market demand.

It followed announcements by Terex and Mallaghan this week that they are preparing to shed jobs in response to coronavirus.

The sector is braced for further announcements in the coming weeks as companies react to the winding down of the UK Government's furlough scheme from August.

The Unite union has called on Stormont to establish a manufacturing taskforce to roll-out what it called a 'proactive industrial programme to secure jobs, skills and a future for industry'.

The union's regional officer George Brash claimed the job cuts at Sensata were unnecessary. He called on the company to avail of furlough support.

“While this is only the latest in a string of Covid-related redundancy notices, the impact on each of the 160 workers who will lose their livelihoods will be hugely distressing; another 160 households face the loss of an income in the midst of a pandemic,” he said.

Sensata Technologies expanded into Northern Ireland in late 2014 through the acquisition of Schrader Electronics. Its main activities involve the design and manufacture of tyre pressure monitoring systems.

But the company has faced challenges prior to the coronavirus pandemic amid falling car sales across Europe.

In January, the group announced plans to shut its factory in Carrickfergus by 2021, with the loss of 270 jobs.

The firm's workforce in the north currently stands at 1,058, meaning 120 jobs have already gone in the past five months.

In a statement on Friday announcing the start of a consultation process, the company said a further 160 production, engineering and support roles will go.

Sensata Technologies' vice president, Eric Sorret said it had become clear that the Covid-19 pandemic will have “a profound and lasting impact” on the demand for direct tyre pressure monitoring systems.

“Vehicle manufacturers around the world are significantly cutting their forecasts for the coming years, with global passenger vehicle demand set to be reduced by between 20 and 30 per cent,” he said.

“This long-term reduction in market demand has already directly affected our Northern Ireland manufactured product lines and we regret to announce that we will be making a series of reductions to the workforce at our Antrim site during 2020 and early 2021.”

But George Brash of Unite claimed employers were using the pandemic as an excuse to wield the axe.

“Northern Ireland manufacturing is facing a tidal wave of job-losses and threats of job-losses as the Covid pandemic is being used by employers as the excuse to slash their employment footprints and reduce capacity.

“The cumulative impact of job-losses on such a scale will be potentially devastating for the working-class but all we have seen from Stormont is continued inaction," he said.

"We now need to see real ambition and determined intervention to safeguard the skills base so vital to future growth when markets restabilise.

“Unite is calling on the Northern Ireland Executive to establish a manufacturing taskforce, bringing together unions and employers, to oversee an ambitious industrial programme for growth and a just transition.”

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