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Threats to IT jobs highlight wider failures of economic strategy

23 January, 2004

Sinn Féin Economy Spokesperson, Fermanagh South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew MLA has said that the news that 350 jobs are threatened at Nortel Networks serves to highlight the failures of the economic strategies currently in place.

Ms Gildernew said:

"Throughout the 6 counties there is mounting daily evidence that we need new thinking about how we support and develop our local economy.

"We are losing not just IT jobs; we have seen huge job losses right across the manufacturing sector. Particularly in a textile industry that is teetering on the edge of destruction and West of the Bann where the situation is compounded by a low manufacturing base and poor investment in infrastructure support to economic development.

"It is not good enough that INI and economic planners in DETI appear to have put all of their eggs into the Œknowledge-based economy‚ basket. It is a strategy that is clearly failing.

"There needs to be a fundamental re-evaluation of the dependency on the IT sector and an imaginative approach to developing economic activity within other sectors. I am also concerned that Ian Pearson appears to be pinning his hopes on call centre jobs or contact centre jobs as he has euphemistically calls them. Many of these are low paid part-time jobs.

"What is required is a new approach to industrial investment not the marketing of the 6 counties as a low-wage economy where companies come and go with no long term commitments despite very high levels of grant aid. All future grant aid and similar financial support must be dependant on the full delivery of promised jobs with strong claw back clauses. While estimates of potential jobs created sound impressive far fewer jobs are delivered. People need full time jobs and not empty promises.

"Despite years of highlighting the damage caused to the local economy by high electricity costs resulting from the bad privatisation deal worked out by previous direct rule Ministers, the unsustainable burden of high insurance premiums, the cost of decades of under investment in our infrastructure we have Ian Pearson refusing to listen to concerns about the way he is handling the industrial de-rating and vacant property rating issues." ENDS

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