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Uncertain future for Springvale factory

Job cut fears at FG Wilson plant

By Gráinne Brinkley

STAFF at FG Wilson’s Springvale plant have “real concerns for their jobs” as rumours circulate that the company is set to make 40 redundancies among its agency workers. An FG Wilson employee contacted this paper about the jobs fears after a recent company briefing was given to staff which failed to address their concerns, leaving them in a state of limbo.

The permanent worker said that if the cut to agency staff goes ahead “it will only be a matter of time” before redundancies are made among permanent staff at the company.

Over 500 full-time and agency workers have already been made redundant at the engineering firm between December 2008 and April 2009.

“There’s a real fear of job losses at the company, we hear they are looking to get rid of up to 40 agency jobs,” said the worker, who did not want to be named.

“There was an employee brief last week about what’s going on and a representative from CAT (FG Wilson parent company Caterpillar) was there, but nothing was really said that told us what’s

going on.

“Their answers around the issue were vague. Communications from the company have been terrible on this. The Springvale and Monkstown plants are in the same boat.”

The staff member said workers are fearing that “another Visteon” scenario could be happening at the plant, referring to the April 2009 closure of the Finaghy Road North car manufacturing company that led to the loss of 200 local jobs and prompted a month-long sit-in by employees over the terms of their redundancy package.

FG Wilson is currently undergoing a rebranding initiative that will see it renamed as NI Fabrications, a move that has added to job fears.

“We think this might be the start of the company moving out,” said the Springvale plant worker.

“A lot of the work has already been outsourced to China or sub-contracted to outside companies and the way things are going we could be closed in two years.

“We believe that FG Wilson have been told that they are operating at 50 percent inefficiency and that they’ve been given two years to turn this around or the place will be closed.

“I’ve been here 11 years and I have real fear for my job security.  If they do away with the contract staff they will come after our jobs next. The situation is dire here. Nobody is being told anything. Everyone is worried.

“There are between 400 and 500 employees at the Springvale plant, a lot of whom are from the local area, so this could have a bad effect on West Belfast if it goes ahead.”

However, Terry Collins, a spokesperson for the Unite union at FG Wilson, said he was unaware about potential job cuts to agency staff at the engineering firm.

“I am aware that some union reps have spoken to management about the rebranding of the company to NI Fabrications and what this might mean for jobs but, as far as I’m aware, assurances were give to shop stewards on job security,” said Mr Collins.

Local Sinn Féin councillor Jim McVeigh said the party was “aware of concerns among members of the workforce at FG Wilson”.

“They have been in contact with me and West Belfast MP Paul Maskey and we are in contact with Unite, who we have offered to meet to discuss these concerns,” he said.

“Any concerns there might be about any future job losses is something we want to do what we can to avoid.

“But at the same time we do not want to alarm people as there is no evidence at the moment to suggest that this is definitely going to be the case.”

However, Cllr McVeigh urged temporary workers at FG Wilson to sign up to a union if they have not done so already. “Full-time staff and agency staff are essentially doing the same job yet they do not have the same rights, so what tends to happen in some situations is that agency staff are usually the first put to the wall,” he said.

“We would encourage agency staff to join a trade union, whether it’s Unite or anyone else, as more and more companies are using agency staff and those staff need to be in unions.

“They needed to be afforded the same rights and same terms and conditions as everybody else.”

When contacted by the Andersonstown News, a  spokesperson for FG Wilson said the firm would “only discuss changes directly with employees”.


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