Senior trade union officials in Derry fear the Executive has accepted the eventual total disappearance of manufacturing in the North West as a fait accompli.
Unite Chair Liam Gallagher and Regional Officer and manufacturing organiser, Philip Oakes, said the city’s once huge manufacturing base has been almost decimated with 18,000 jobs in 1990 slashed to just 3,000 today.
They are calling for the urgent implementation of a stand-alone manufacturing strategy involving the trade unions and far-sighted Derry employers such as DuPont, Seagate and others, who have already expressed a willingness to be involved.
Mr Gallagher said: “There is a feeling that the Executive is basically in denial about this and when we have actually gone to them and confronted them their attitude has been that manufacturing is still healthy in Northern Ireland and that the overall picture is OK.
“Our retort to that is that it’s not the case and that they are burying their heads in the sand. It doesn’t augur well, we feel, for the Executive’s position and the Assembly’s position in relation to manufacturing, that they feel [its decline] is unstoppable and they are not prepared to bring in serious interventionist policies to stop it.
“Now this is evidenced by the fact that the Executive won’t agree, even though we have lobbied hard, for a stand alone manufacturing strategy for Northern Ireland, which we feel is crucial.
“If you don’t make anything, if you don’t produce anything, then that’s not good for your economy.
“Now what they are putting all their emphasis on is attracting lower paid jobs, particularly in the financial services sector and while they are welcome I think it’s absolutely necessary that we have to defend the manufacturing base in Northern Ireland and that is slowly being eroded.”
Mr Oakes concurred: “It’s got to the stage where, certainly from a trade union perspective, I’ve come to the belief that anything that is labour intensive is on a run down, it’s definitely going to leave.
“I think our own Stormont Assembly has accepted that as well. That it is a fait accompli, that it is going to happen, in the short term or in the long-term.
“If you look at it from the North West perspective what we’ve lost up here is actually incredible but because it’s all small pockets of 200, 300, it doesn’t possibly get the same attention, you know, that your big hits do with regard to 1,000 plus.
“But I mean, Calcast, Arntz, they are all gone, voluntary redundancies, recently across a number of plants, when they happen on a drip feed they don’t tend to get noticed, to a large degree.
He added: “It’s definitely got to the stage I believe where Stormont are happy for the whole of Northern Ireland to move to a service sector. They’ve given up the ghost on it, they really have. That’s how it appears.
“You hear about all these strategies going on in the background but you never seem them delivering anything. I mean talk’s cheap.”
Mr Gallagher said the huge decrease in manufacturing has rendered Derry a ‘ghost town.’
“We’ve lost 18,000 jobs since 1990 in the North West. That’s huge.
“You only have to look at the mornings when the schools are off, this is a ghost town. When the youngsters are not going to school, look at the level of traffic, the volume. It’s an indication of what’s happening in the town.
“If you look at Derry, I’d say there’s a significant number of people now, who are on zero hour contracts, the casualisation of labour in the North West. It’s gotten to the stage now where it’s ridiculous.
“Any youngster now between 18 and 24, no matter how well qualified you are, will have to depend on two or possibly three jobs, to try and eke out an existence.”