Dickson has constructive meeting with Caterpillar management.

East Antrim Alliance MLA Stewart Dickson has said he had an extremely constructive and informative discussion with Caterpillar’s Operations Director, Robert Kennedy.

Mr Dickson, who has regular contact with Mr Kennedy, spoke to him to represent the concerns of his constituents. Mr Dickson also raised a number of issues on behalf of the Trade Union UNITE, who he also met recently.

Mr Dickson said: “I was expressing my concerns and those of constituents regarding the job losses at Caterpillar and am delighted that Mr Kennedy took the time to explain the situation with the company in a world-wide context. The company has suffered from ‘global buffeting’ in the mining industry, which has suffered a huge downturn in the last year. This has resulted in the need to reduce the production of large generators, made in the Larne operation, by some 80%.

“I do believe that management is attempting to deal with the situation with the best interests of its NI workforce to the fore. For example, it will move the axel making operation from Europe to the Larne operation. It will eventually move that part of its manufacturing to the Springvale site, leaving Larne to subsume the need for generators when the mining industry picks up again. It is, however, very unfortunate that the Monkstown plant will be closing.

“There are many workers from NI who service these generators across the world. With the reduction in sales over the short to medium term, the existing products will require more service from these technicians.

“Brexit is a major concern to this worldwide workforce, as their residency status, post Brexit, may cause serious issues. Before the referendum, Mark Dorset, Director of Caterpillar in the UK stated:

‘British membership of the EU is fundamental to our business interests because the vast majority of products manufactured in Britain are exported to the single market and third countries.’ – 21st April 2016, Financial Times.

“The situation created by Brexit, where technicians and support staff from NI (and elsewhere in the UK), ply their trade within the European Union and further afield, will be of great concern to them.

“I was especially pleased, but not surprised, to be told that the schemes put in place to provide opportunities for apprenticeships, by my colleague Stephen Farry, whilst Minister for Employment & Learning, had been embraced by Caterpillar to utilise the skills it required to service its EU and global customers.”

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