28 September 2006 Edition

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Nuacht na nOibrithe

BY Justin Moran

Invest Northern Ireland fails again

Invest NI's Performance Report has indicated that, during its three years of operations, overall employment in its client companies has dropped by 4,700 in the Six Counties. This is despite almost €600 million being invested in supporting economic projects between 2002 and 2005.

Sinn Féin's General Secretary and economics spokesperson Mitchel McLaughlin MLA pointed out that the report proves that Invest NI has also failed to ensure balanced regional development across the North.

"Figures clearly show that there is a bias in directing investment to the Belfast Metropolitan Area and the East, to the detriment of areas west of the Bann and border counties," he declared.

"Within Belfast, the most deprived wards in the North and West of the city receive the least amount of investment.

"Despite how Invest NI may try to present the figures, they are stark. Percentage breakdowns show that the eleven councils west of the Bann received only 27% of investment; Belfast and the East received 73%. The six parliamentary constituencies west of the Bann received 26% of investment. The six councils identified by DETI itself as being the most deprived received less than 18% of investment.

"It is clear in this Performance Report that Invest NI sees the rest of the North as a Travel to Work Area for Belfast."

Industrial action in nursing and banking sectors

Psychiatric nurses in the Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA) and SIPTU have set 9 October as the start date for industrial action, following overwhelming votes in both unions for an escalation in their campaign. The two unions are fighting for the introduction of a proper compensation scheme for psychiatric nurses assaulted at work, in line with the recommendations of a joint employer-union task force.

The workers are determined to ensure the safety of patients in the various psychiatric facilities. The PNA's executive is meeting this Friday to decide the specific form the strike action will take.

The possibility of industrial action in the banking sector also took a step closer this week with the announcement by the Irish Bank Officials Association (IBOA) that it was referring its dispute over the pension scheme at the Bank of Ireland to the National Implementation Board.

Labour Relations Commission talks, which began at the start of September, have broken down. The IBOA are refusing to rule out industrial action to resolve the dispute, which centres on proposed changes to the pension scheme for new entrants.

West Limerick devastated by job losses

One of the largest employers in West Limerick is to close with the loss of more than 300 jobs, devastating the local community. Poultry company Castlemahon Food Products, which has been doing business in Newcastle West, County Limerick for decades, has had a liquidator appointed by the High Court and a hearing will be held on 23 October to wrap up the company.

The High Court heard on Tuesday that the company lost €6 million in the year ended April 2006 and had accumulated losses of €19 million over the last five years. The poultry sector, and the food industry as a whole, has been coming under increasing pressure from major supermarkets to continually cut prices, with a corresponding knock-on effect for farmers and producers.

In 2005, 150 jobs were shed in one of a number of attempts to restructure the company whose unprofitability management has continued to blame on high wage rates, though workers argue that poor management has been more responsible. At the time, the ATGWU warned that without major investment in technology and machinery at the plant, the situation in terms of job losses there could become drastically worse.


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