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GEM job losses highlights the need for scrutiny of InvestNI strategy - Martina Anderson

20 April, 2009 - by Maeve McLaughlin

Commenting on the announced job losses at the GEM call centre in Derry Sinn Fein MLA, Martina Anderson (Foyle) has said that this calls into question the recent announcement by the company that it intends to create a further 900 jobs at various locations in the North. On the back of this announcement, InvestNI (INI) pledged £5.5 million financial assistance to GEM, which should now be re-evaluated.    Martina Anderson said:   "Gem is the North’s largest indigenous call-centre employer with operations  in Derry and Belfast currently employing around 1000 people. However, only about 100 of these are employed in Derry.   "In February, GEM announced plans to create 900 new jobs in the North.  At that time, the company would not confirm if any of these jobs would be located in Derry although it wasn’t ruled out. Sinn Féin argued strongly that – given the fact that public money was being made available to create these jobs that a considerable number should be located in Derry.

"The Programme for Government pledged all Government Departments and agencies, including Invest NI, 'to address existing patterns of socio-economic disadvantage and target resources and efforts towards those in greatest objective need'. I am now calling on InvestNI to act on this pledge by entering into discussions with GEM to not only save these jobs but to keep them in Derry.   "PriceWaterhouseCooper recently produced a report on job creation stating that unless possitive initatives were put in place the gap between Belfast and Derry would continue to widen. It is time that InvestNI changed direction in the discharge of its remit. Yesterdays ways are no longer acceptable.  

"GEM received £5.5 million of Invest NI support following on the promise of 900 new jobs in the North. If INI was doing its job, they would be saying to Gem – ‘We have given you financial assistance on the promise of jobs, now show us your committment by delivering a significant number of these jobs to Derry instead of announcing redundancies. If your plans don't come up to scratch, then we’ll have to reassess our funding offer’.  

"The fact that they are making workers redundant in Derry would give rise to serious doubts about their intention to bring any of these new jobs to the city.   "That isn’t good enough. £5.5m of OUR taxpayers money has been pumped into this investment and it should be utilised to the benefit of areas like Derry that have been starved of any substantial job creation investment for too long.   "Twenty workers should not be facing the prospect of losing their jobs or transferring to Belfast. This company benefited from a massive public investment. A considerable portion of that investment should be directed at expanding the Derry operation and creating jobs, not making redundancies."

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