Ballymena to Rally for a Future
In the wake of massive manufacturing job losses in the area, Unite’s Ballymena Activist Committee has called a major demonstration in the town at noon on Saturday 6th February at the Bandstand. The Socialist spoke to Leo Mooney, an FG Wilson worker and member of the Committee.
The closure of the Gallaghers factory wiped out almost 1,000 jobs in the last year and 860 more are set to go at Michelin in the near future. Can you describe the impact this has had on Ballymena?
It’s devastating. These were highly-paid, secure jobs. Already, the knock on effect to local small businesses is evident with people being sacked due to the lack of consumer spending. There is also a sense that there is no future for the youth of the town. Unless we fightback, the future of Ballymena seems very bleak.
Unite activists have called a major demonstration in opposition to the job losses. Why should people take part? What are you calling for?
People should participate in this demonstration in order to build a more secure future for the next generation growing up in North Antrim, which will apply pressure on the politicians to create a stronger economy for the entirety of Northern Ireland.
We’re often told that in a global economy, we can’t resist job losses and that we have to compete with super-low wage economies. Do you disagree? What can the trade union movement do to fight back?
We as a Union strongly disagree that we can’t resist job losses, the foundation of the real economy lies in manufacturing. It not only creates jobs and wealth, it is the foundation for innovation, R&D and modernisation. Jobs created in manufacturing give rise to a multiple of jobs in other sectors, multiplying wealth throughout the economy.
We need to build an indigenous manufacturing base, building our own talents and skills, with companies rooted in the local economies. However, this will not be done by ‘market forces’ or waiting for private sector investors. Just as in the past, we must develop policies in which the public sector is a direct and active partner in building a modern manufacturing base.
What is your message to the politicians? Where will the campaign go after demonstration?
Our message to the Politicians is that we want more investment in innovation, research and development, as well as an apprenticeship programme of high quality that leads to actual, sustainable jobs.
We have a programme of various activities prior to the main demonstration, in order to highlight and focus people’s attention on the catastrophic demise of manufacturing in Northern Ireland. We plan to follow it up with demonstrations across Northern Ireland. I personally believe that this could be the appropriate time to create and support a Unite candidate for election to Stormont in the upcoming elections in May, to give us a stronger voice for manufacturing workers within local Government.