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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 May, 2003, 14:18 GMT 15:18 UK
Jobs shed at cigarette plant
Cigarette company is restructuring operations

Cigarette maker Gallaher is to cut 175 jobs at its factory in County Antrim as part of an overhaul of its European operations.

The company, which employs more than 1,000 people in Northern Ireland, said 130 jobs would be cut at its Ballymena plant this year and 45 over the next two years.

Gallaher also plans to close its factory in Dublin.

In a statement on Tuesday, the company said the redundancies were part of a restructuring plan.

"After careful consideration of the review, the group is planning to cease all manufacturing in its Dublin factory and also to reduce jobs in Austria and the UK.

"Overall, around 430 operational jobs could be affected," it added.

It is my view that government is not doing enough to protect the manufacturing base in the country generally
Ian Paisley Junior

The company said it hoped to retrain and re-deploy staff where possible and that it would attempt to maximise the number of voluntary redundancies

Nigel Dunlop, group operations director, said any proposal to reduce jobs was regrettable, "particularly when our employees contribute so much to the success of the group".

"However, the restructuring of our European operations will enable Gallaher to remain at the forefront of operational efficiency and help to ensure the long-term success of the group and its employees."

Manufacturing base

Ulster Unionist assembly member Robert Coulter said the announcement would have a big impact on the economy of the area.

"Like so much of Ulster's manufacturing sector, it seems we are now paying a heavy price for the fact we cannot compete with cheaper production costs abroad," he said.

"The government must take a long hard look at manufacturing as a whole in Northern Ireland. We are losing too many jobs in this area and this trend must be addressed quickly."

North Antrim DUP representative Ian Paisley junior said the jobs losses were a major blow to one of the county's largest employers.

"It indicates the problems faced by manufactures all over Europe that where it is cheaper to produce products companies will be forced to move operations there," he added.

Mr Paisley has called for a meeting with the secretary of state and the industry minister to discuss the future of the manufacturing sector.

TriVirix say that while their business plan is good for the long-term, they need to make 60 redundancies from their workforce of about 150
James Kerr

"It is my view that government is not doing enough to protect the manufacturing base in the country generally," he said.

Gallagher's plans follow the closure of the Malmö factory last year, with the incorporation of cigarette production into the Austrian factories and handrolling tobacco production into the Lisnafillan factory near Ballymena.

Briefings with employees begin on Tuesday and there will be full consultation about the plans.

Gallagher was founded in Northern Ireland in 1840 and is one of the biggest names in the tobacco industry, with brands that include Benson and Hedges and Silk Cut.

Meanwhile, about 60 jobs are set to go in west Belfast.

BBC Northern Ireland business editor James Kerr said: "The company, TriVirix, was attracted here by the IDB, when it was still in existence.

"It is a very fast-growing US company making medical devices," he said.

"They have had significant investment to allow them to expand very quickly.

"However, what they are saying now is that they don't think they can go to the capital markets looking for more money in future.

"They say they have to get to a position where they are in profit and that means cutting costs. They say that while their business plan is good for the long-term, they need to make 60 redundancies from their workforce of about 150."

TriVirix specialises "in the development, manufacture, and support of complex electronic and electromechanical medical and other life sciences equipment".

BBC NI's business editor James Kerr:
"The fact is they don't need the same number of people to make the same number of cigarettes"

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