Smyth and Gibson closure: Loss of one of Derry's last shirt factories an indictment of economic strategy, blasts Unite

A leading Derry trade union has said the loss of one of the last quality shirt factories in Derry is a blow to the 34 workers employed there and an indictment of the economic policies pursued by central and regional government over the past number of decades.

Thursday, 23rd May 2019, 10:51 am
Smyth and Gibson to close.

Liam Gallagher, Unite Regional Officer, made the remarks after the luxury shirt-maker Smyth & Gibson proposed a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) with creditors following an increase in production costs and a drop in retail sales that will lead to the closure of its factory on Victoria Road.

"Not only is this a blow to 34 workers and their families but it is sad reflection on the state of our manufacturing base. Derry had 40 shirt factories that created thousands of jobs. The skills that built up over generations will be lost forever. The same fate befell our light and heavy engineering skills," said Mr. Gallagher.

The trade union leader claimed the demise of manufacturing and high-end textiles in the North West coincided with an emphasis on the 'brave new world' of the technological and communications industries.

"We allowed this happen in a race to the bottom and we were told that manufacturing was old hat, yesterday’s news and the brave new world of employment was in the technical and communications world. That never materialised and we ended up a low wage economy overly dependant on the Public Sector.

"If we are to give our young people hope we need to develop a manufacturing capacity or we will resign ourselves to continue trying to attract low value and low paid employment," he said.

Meanwhile, the Mayor of Derry and Strabane, Councillor Michaela Boyle, expressed her sincere disappointment at the closure and solidarity with the affected workers.

She acknowledged the current pressures on the manufacturing industry and the competition from other export markets but said every effort must be made by the relevant statutory agencies to provide business support that allows them to be more sustainable.

The Mayor welcomed news that a significant number of the workers impacted by this announcement have been recruited by O'Neills Irish International Sports Company.

Mayor Boyle said: “News of these job losses is extremely disappointing and sad news for everyone involved. Earlier this week in my inaugural speech as newly elected Mayor I set out by commitment to do all I can to attract jobs, investment and regeneration to this city and district.

"I remain committed to that promise and would like to reassure those affected by today’s jobs losses that I will be proactively putting pressure on both the British and Irish Governments to place job creation high on their agenda for the people of the North West region.”