According to reports in the Belfast Telegraph, Michelin has told staff at its Northern Ireland factory to extend their Christmas break. Normally, the factory is closed on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, but this year the shut down will last for ten days, from the 23rd December to 2nd January. Michelin has cited the economic turndown as its reason for the closure. The facility, in Ballymena, employs 1000 people to produce truck tyres for the European and North American markets.
Workers have been told that they must either treat the time as part of their holiday allocation, or take it as unpaid leave. Those in the greatest need of money will be able to work cleaning the factory during the enforced break. According to a Michelin spokesperson, “It is really down to the state of the market for truck tyres which is pretty poor at present due to the economic situation. We are building up too much stock at present and this shutdown should allow stock levels to be brought down to normal”.
Union representatives are not happy about this development. John Allen, a senior shop steward. Told the Telegraph, “We are being asked to use up holidays from the previous year or bank days from next year, or take unpaid leave, but if that does not suit, workers are being asked to come in to clean the factory. Morale is low in the plant and this makes us apprehensive about the future. At present we are producing tyres for the South American and Asian markets but they, too, are now being affected by the slowdown”.