It’s the same story across the UK — job losses blight the country as austerity bites and big businesses make blinkered decisions for short-term gain.
But one community in Northern Ireland, in conjunction with Unite, is fighting back.
Ballymena, home to Michelin and JTI-Gallaher plants, has suffered massive job losses, and now those same workers whose futures have been put on hold have got together with a plan.
Next week on February 6, the Ballymena community will come together through Unite’s campaign, “Rally for A Future” which aims to put pressure on the Stormont government to take action against devastating job losses in the area.
As UniteLive has previously reported, the rally has drawn the support of world-acclaimed actor and native son Liam Neeson.
Now, Ballymena United Football Club have joined in to lend their support. Before last Saturday’s game (January 23), the team (pictured) wore ‘Rally for a Future’ t-shirts in the run-up to next week’s rally.
Ballymena United’s Iain Black explained why the team was throwing their support behind the rally.
“Like all organisations and businesses in the town, Ballymena United are deeply affected by the recent downturn in the local economy,” he said.
“The football club was founded by local businessmen and supporters and has continued, throughout our history, to not only rely on the support of the local public and businesses to survive, but also to be an integral part of this community.
“It is saddening to know the difficulties that our businesses are facing, but more importantly the hardships faced by many supporters and families in the town, particularly in light of recent news of industry closures,” Black went on to say.
“These companies have not just provided significant income through sponsorship for Ballymena United, but have employed a large number of supporters who attend matches week in, week out,” he added. “It is clear from talking to supporters that there are very few who haven’t been directly affected by such closures.”
“As a community club we are not in the business of politics, but this is more an issue of huge local interest and we are in the business of standing up for those who have stood up for us through thick and thin for nearly 90 years.”
“We would encourage all supporters and members of the local community to support local businesses and trade,” Black noted. “Investment in the local economy is the only way forward and each and every one of us can play our part, big and small, in making our town one of prosperity and sustainability.”
Unite Ireland secretary Jimmy Kelly hailed the growing support for the campaign.
“Our Rally For A Future campaign is really gaining momentum on the ground in Ballymena and has received ringing endorsements from local sports personalities, the local Ballymena United Football Club and Ballymena’s most famous son, Liam Neeson,” he said.
“Tomorrow I’ll be down to speak with Unite shop stewards who are going out day after day to build the campaign demanding action for investment and jobs,” Kelly added.
“I’ll also be meeting local apprentices who face a very uncertain future unless we can secure additional manufacturing employment for the town. Rally For A Future offers a beacon of hope for the future – we are going all out ahead of February 6th to make this as strong a demonstration as we can.
“Have no doubt we will be judged by the numbers of feet on the street for our Rally,” Kelly noted. “Make this a major demonstration of how we can all come together to demand a better future for all. Avoid the trap of ‘what difference will it make’. Be there on Saturday February 6th. We can make a difference.”