Newry Customs job losses
Tuesday, 17 December 2013
A PETITION signed by over 40,000 people opposed to government plans to slash public service jobs - including over 130 jobs in Newry - has been handed to British Prime Minister David Cameron.
An SDLP delegation that included South Down MP Margaret Ritchie handed the petition calling for the retention of HMRC and DVA jobs over to Downing Street.
Last month Customs confirmed that it was cutting staff due to an increasing number of customers "doing business online".
A total of 240 staff across the north are set to go - with Newry suffering the heaviest loss with 135 jobs set to be scrapped.
Before handing over the petition, SDLP MP Mark Durkan questioned the Prime Minister in the House of Commons about his commitment to the north's economy while the government plans to cut HMRC and DVA jobs across the region.
He said: "The Prime Minister says that the G8 and his attendance at the investment conference advertise his commitment to Northern Ireland and our economy but his Whitehall is busy removing jobs from NI both in the DVA and HMRC with proposals to close offices in Newry, Enniskillen and half operations in my constituency of Foyle.
“How does removing jobs at Whitehall's hands contribute to balancing the economy in Northern Ireland?"
Mr Cameron responded by confirming that the Exchequer Secretary has agreed to meet with Mr Durkan to discuss the proposals.
Meanwhile, Newry MLA Mickey Brady has told the Assembly that the job losses will mainly affect women and nationalist areas.
Staff in Newry had until tomorrow (Wednesday, December 18) to sign up to a Voluntary Exit Scheme but have collectively refused to do so.
Speaking at Stormont, Mr Brady said: "It is worth noting that the job losses here will mainly affect women and that they are all in nationalist constituencies.
“Newry has suffered for many years from long-term unemployment, and there is no doubt that this will have a devastating effect on our local economy.
"The HMRC staff union reps are firmly of the view that this is a clear shift away from normal protocols and processes, where, if an office is proposed for closure the examination of all options to avoid redundancies is usually the first step.
“I hope that David Gauke will respond soon to the meeting request from our four MPs and that they have the opportunity to present the points I have raised to him."
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