Michelin to cut 860 jobs in Ballymena factory closure

A Michelin factory worker in France
A Michelin factory worker in France

Michelin has announced plans to close its factory in Ballymena, Northern Ireland - a move which is set to cost 860 jobs.

The company said it will "run down" the tyre manufacturing plant by mid-2018 as part of a restructuring plan that will see investment in its facilities in Dundee and Stoke on Trent.

The announcement comes a year after another major employer in Ballymena - the JTI Gallaher tobacco factory - announced plans to close its operation in the town by 2017, with the loss of around 870 jobs.

The factory in Ballymena opened in 1969. Management figures have been warning for a number of years that high-energy costs were making production increasingly unsustainable.

A statement from Michelin said: "The proposal to run down the truck tyre factory in Ballymena has been made in light of the significant downturn in demand for truck tyres in Europe since the financial crisis of 2007, which has seen the market decrease by over five million tyres.

"This reduced market has been made even more challenging by the huge influx of tyres made in Asia, which have doubled in the last few years, and increased competition.

"As a result, there is a strong need to reduce over-capacity and to concentrate Michelin truck tyre production in larger, more competitive sites.

"Despite great efforts and progress being made in previous years, other European plants are still more competitive than Ballymena.

"The tyre building machines at Ballymena are not capable of making the hi-tech tyres of the future, and the amount of investment required to upgrade the plant is prohibitive, particularly at a time when that capacity is not required."

A consultation exercise with the workforce will now get under way.

"Michelin appreciates the impact these proposals may have on the employees and local community, and commits to support every employee throughout the process," said the company.

"In the coming weeks we will meet every employee individually to discuss the proposal and the assistance the employee may need.

"Support will include enhanced redundancy payments, training and advice to find new employment quickly. Employees prepared to relocate will be offered a job in UK or European plants with relocation support."