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Politicians to do battle in bid to save Customs jobs

Sinn Féin MPs Conor Murphy and Michelle Gildernew intend to travel to Westminster to argue the case for 134 workers who are set to lose their jobs at the Customs Office in Newry.

Newry & Armagh MP Conor Murphy said: “This has come out of the blue for the workers with 134 people set to lose their jobs in Newry as well as workers employed in Enniskillen and Derry.

“Both myself and Councillor Charlie Casey have met with some of the workers and they have been told they have to agree to a voluntary exit scheme by December 18 and are adamant there is no opportunity for redeployment.

“Customs is controlled from by the British Treasury at Westminster and we have been in touch with SDLP Foyle MP Mark Durkan who will travel with us to Westminster to press Minister David Gauke to reconsider this move.

“This is part of a broader move by the British Government to look after the Tories’ base in the south of England with job loses also scheduled for Scotland and the north of England.”

Fermanagh & South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew said: “The border constituencies can ill-afford to lose more jobs. It is clearly bad news for the workers in the different offices but also, as with all job loses, will have a knock on affect for the local economy.

“We will be meeting with the workers involved to find out further details of what is on offer for them and what we can do to assist.”

SDLP Assembly Members Dominic Bradley MLA and Karen Mc Kevitt MLA, along with SDLP South Down MP Margaret Ritchie have also lambasted the HMRC over plans to close their Newry office. 

Speaking after a meeting with union officials and local HMRC staff, Newry and Armagh Assembly Member Dominic Bradley said: “The job cuts being proposed by HMRC will hit only nationalist areas west of the Bann – Newry, Enniskillen and Derry – and those affected will predominately be nationalist and female.

“HMRC has engineered this move to avoid living up to their Section 75 (NI Act) duties to carry out an Equality Impact Assessment. It is totally unacceptable that HMRC should seek to ride roughshod over important legislation which seeks to ensure equality of treatment for all.

“HMRC is in danger of damaging its reputation as being a fair employer representing all communities in Northern Ireland through its current approach to the proposed office closures. Such behaviour cannot be tolerated and will be fiercely opposed by all right thinking people here and beyond.

South Down MLA Karen Mc Kevitt added:The Executive has hosted Investment Conferences in an effort to create new jobs and here we have a Whitehall department slashing long standing public service jobs in areas where they are sorely needed. We need jobs to underpin the peace process and a department which is seen to be ignoring equality legislation relating to religious and gender discrimination certainly does not help. We will fight tooth and nail to ensure that these jobs remain in Newry.”

South Down MP Margaret Ritchie added: “HMRC are being dishonest in presenting their cuts agenda as a response to changes in business trends.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

“There is plenty of experience and flexibility within the Newry office to handle non-specific location work and training. I have won the battle in the past to keep HMRC in Newry and I will continue to work to keep it there.  I have already asked the Treasury Minister to meet my colleagues and I to discuss this issue and help ensure that the threat to these jobs is removed.”

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