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Last Updated: Friday, 20 February, 2004, 16:11 GMT
Devastation as firms close
Jackie Pollock
Jackie Pollock from Amicus said the job losses were "an enormous blow"

More than 800 people are facing serious financial worries following the latest job losses in the textiles and manufacturing industries in Northern Ireland.

Workers emerged grim faced from a meeting at TK ECC, usually known as European Components, in Dundonald, County Down, on Friday where the company announced that the plant was to shut down.

It took just three minutes to inform them that 550 jobs would be lost in as little as four weeks.

Trevor Bryans, a worker at the plant, said: "We are on the dole and out again, looking for a new job somewhere else. I thought that when we came in here, we would have a lifetime of work, but obviously not."

Others said they were not hopeful of securing another job.

"My job is gone and I have a mortgage," said Jim Brown. "Where are you going to get a job in manufacturing in this country now?"

Jackie Pollock from the Amicus Union said the workforce was devastated, especially when both management and employees had tried so hard to secure a future.

It is like a dark cloud cast over this village
Paul Hendron
Shop manager
"The trade union had worked very hard with the company in a partnership role to turn the corner," Mr Pollock said.

"After a number of years of serious losses, we thought we had rode the storm and we thought there was a viable future for all the employees."

The residents of the small village of Sion Mills, County Tyrone, were equally devastated by the closure of Herdman's Linen Mills and the loss of 270 jobs.

Marty Neeson, who works at the mill, described the news as "gut wrenching".

"This company has been the life and soul of the whole community. It has been keeping this community going. I don't know what is going to happen."

Paul Hendron, the manager of a shop in the village said; "When I heard the news, it was like a dark cloud cast over the village and cast over the people."

Politicians have voiced their concern about the jobs loss.

The MP for Strangford, Iris Robinson, said the jobs loss was "just too dreadful to contemplate".

Ulster Unionist Assembly member Sir Reg Empey said the loss of around 1,000 car jobs, textile jobs and Victor Stationery jobs in less than a month represented "a huge blow to the manufacturing base in Northern Ireland".

Enterprise Minister Ian Pearson said he was "very saddened" to hear of the number of workers who were to lose their jobs.

He said Invest Northern Ireland - the business agency for the province - had been working closely with both TK-ECC and Herdman's but the companies had said their closures were commercial decisions "taken in the light of changes in the global structure of manufacturing".

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