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Council to seek Stormont talks amid fears 500 Thompson Aero Seating job losses will not be last

'Until the furlough scheme ends we don't know what sectors are going to be affected by this outbreak'

Thompson Aero Seating

A cross-party delegation is to seek a meeting with Stormont ministers to discuss the fall-out of the Thompson Aero Seating jobs blow.

The move comes after a proposal by Alliance Party councillor Brian Pope, chairing a remote meeting of ABC Council’s economic committee on Tuesday night.

Last week, the global company – which has bases in Portadown and Banbridge – announced that up to 500 jobs were to go.

It blamed “major market challenges” for the move.

Councillor Pope said it was going to be a “very tough year” for businesses and he voiced fears for jobs locally.

He proposed that a cross-party delegation seek a meeting with Economy Minister Diane Dodds after the major blow for the borough.

SDLP Councillor Thomas O’Hanlon seconded the proposal.

He said while the news this week related to Thompson Aero Seating, he cautioned: “We don’t know what’s coming around the corner.”

Ulster Unionist councillor Sam Nicholson felt it would be “useful going forward” to have some sort of connection between council and Stormont, considering the job losses announced.

And he said it could be the start, adding: “Until the furlough scheme ends we don’t know what sectors are going to be affected by this outbreak.”

Head of the Economic Development Department Nicola Wilson said the news from Thompsons was a “devastating blow” and conceded it may only be the first of a number of job losses locally.

It had been proposed that a presentation be received from the Economic Policy Centre from the Ulster University on recovery.

DUP Alderman Stephen Moutray said it was “important we have it soon”.

It was Sinn Fein councillor Catherine Nelson who raised the issue of the effects on rural communities and she said while town centres were being supported it was important that rural villages “also get the attention they deserve”.

Councillor Nelson said it was also important to show support for businesses which did not have a rateable property, of which there were many, and cited driving instructors, fisherman and labourers as examples.

Deputy Lord Mayor Kyle Savage fought the corner for the agri-food industry, which he said accounted for 100,000 jobs in Northern Ireland and the ABC Council area had the highest proportion in the country.

He said: “I am sick sore and tired of the farming community being forgotten about.

“The farmer is the bottom rung of the ladder and everybody is tramping over the top of him,” added councillor Savage.

He also spoke of the need to support rural community and said council officers needed to be out talking to the community and rural businesses face to face.

Strategic Director Olga Murtagh explained they had made contact with the Ulster Farmers’ Union policy officer and said a report on the agri-sector would be brought to the next meeting.

It was agreed that the Ulster University Economic Policy Centre attend for an update.

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