Downturn in demand for small generator sets leads to 83 more job losses at Caterpillar

Caterpillar's manufacturing operation in Larne, where 83 more jobs are being lost
Caterpillar's manufacturing operation in Larne, where 83 more jobs are being lost

MANUFACTURING giant Caterpillar plans to make another 83 workers redundant at its Larne plant, which mainly makes electric power units.

It follows a downturn in demand for its FG Wilson electric generator sets, with Caterpillar set to discontinue the manufacture of this product in Larne, where it current employs around 550 staff.

The facility in Larne also designs and manufactures the larger Cat power solutions for key business sectors including data centres, construction, mining, healthcare, utility and other industries, and this business will be unaffected.

The company's manufacturing facility at Springvale in Belfast, which makes component sub-assemblies including axles and transmissions for Cat articulated trucks as well as other oil and gas applications, is not impacted by the current changes.

Caterpillar insists the decision is unrelated to recent industrial action and has also nothing to do with issues around Brexit and the Protocol.

A spokesperson said: "Caterpillar is contemplating discontinuing the manufacture of the FG Wilson electric generator set in Larne.

"If finalised, the decision would result in approximately 83 job reductions in Larne.

"This contemplation does not reflect on the dedicated efforts of our employees, and we recognise this represents difficult news.

"We will consult on the intended actions with the appropriate representative groups. During the consultation process, the company will try to identify options, including redeployment, to minimise redundancies.

"The company also intends to offer severance packages and outplacement services to impacted employees."

Caterpillar still has more than 10,000 people working across its UK sites including nearly 900 in Northern Ireland.

In June management in the north effectively circumvented unions by tabling a “final” pay offer directly to striking employees to resolve a 14-month industrial impasse.

It it was labelled by Unite as "a clear attempt to by-pass the collective bargaining process" and was described as "a direct attack on the trade union".

Caterpillar has had a torrid last few years in Northern Ireland, where it has produced huge trading losses and also significantly slashed its workforce.

In March last year Caterpillar’s administrative base at Springvale Business Park in west Belfast was placed on the market for £3.5m, with employees moved to Larne.

And just before Christmas, the company revealed that it was also selling a sizeable part of its manufacturing base in Larne, with its 18-acre site on the Old Glenarm Road, which contains almost 200,000 sq ft of industrial and warehouse buildings, being listed for sale at £3.25 million.

East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson expressed disappointment at the job losses, which he said highlight the importance of the Government helping reduce energy bills for all sectors “by introducing affordable plans, protecting our UK energy security and axing crippling green taxes.”

He added: “These sites once employed 3000 people, yet Caterpillar’s workforce has now reduced to around 800. Given the site size and the numbers now working there, I have raised the sustainability of the site and I am seeking further assurances on this aspect.”