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Assembly Written Question 9763/17-22

Question: To ask the Minister for the Economy what action she is taking (i) to avoid the loss of 700 jobs at Caterpillar in Larne and Belfast; and (ii) to help support workers at these sites.[Priority Written]

Answer: The decision by Caterpillar in the US to enter a period of consultation will be a worrying time for many. While the company has explained that this is part of a process for the restructuring of its Electric Power Division at Larne, the scale of the potential job losses will have come as a great shock to the workforce and their families.

I met with Caterpillar NI’s Senior Management team, along with representatives from Invest NI, on Friday 6 November 2020 to express my disappointment at the decision. I have asked Invest NI, which has a good working relationship with Caterpillar, to continue to engage with the company throughout this consultation period to explore ways to minimise the impact at the Northern Ireland sites. I also, met the UNITE union on Tuesday 10 November 2020 to hear their concerns and I am confident that everyone will be working to ensure that we can support the workforce at this time.

At the meeting with Caterpillar NI senior management I made it clear that the Executive is committed to exploring ways to minimise the impact at both Northern Ireland sites. I told the Caterpillar Senior Management that I was keen to discuss with them what future opportunities might exist for the Caterpillar NI operations as the company focusses on other business areas. The team at Invest NI will continue to explore where it might be possible to assist the company with any potential new investment opportunities.

My Department’s Careers Service officials made contact with the company on Monday 9 November 2020 to make them aware of the advice and guidance services available to support those employees who may be facing redundancy. The Careers Service will maintain contact with Caterpillar over the coming weeks and will be available to support employees at any stage throughout the transition process.

My Department and Invest NI, alongside other stakeholders (including Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, NI Chamber, Manufacturing NI and DfE Careers Service), are liaising with Caterpillar Senior Management to ensure that assistance is available to support workers through this process. This will include redundancy clinics, re-skilling, job fairs and identification of job opportunities.

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