Japan Tobacco to create £5m trust for jobs in Ballymena

JTI’s Gallaher tobacco plant in the town will close by end of May 2017 with loss of up to 800 jobs

Cigarette maker JTI Gallaher announced last year that it is to shut its factory in County Antrim with the loss of around 800 jobs. Photograph: Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press

Cigarette maker JTI Gallaher announced last year that it is to shut its factory in County Antrim with the loss of around 800 jobs. Photograph: Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press

 

JTI, the Japanese tobacco group which will close its cigarette factory in Ballymena next year, is to establish a £5 million charitable fund for the Co Antrim town.

The group said the charitable trust is being established to “support job creation and skills development for the Ballymena community”. It will also fund support for disadvantaged adults in the area.

JTI’s Ballymena factory, which employed 800 people, will “cease all operations” by the end of May 2017 marking the end of a business that was founded by Derry born Thomas Gallaher in 1857.

The Japanese group blamed “significant and sustained changes” to its global business for its decision in 2014 to close its Gallaher plant in the Northern Ireland town.

The annual wage bill from Gallaher’s was estimated to be worth almost £60 million to the local economy.

Charlie Cunningham-Reid, JTI UK’s head of corporate affairs and communications said the new charitable trust is the company’s “legacy” to Ballymena.

“We have supported the local community in Northern Ireland since Tom Gallaher’s very first charitable donation in 1897,” he said. “Following the announcement of our factory closure, JTI made a commitment to continue this support and we believe the creation of this trust will leave a lasting legacy for the people of Ballymena.”

The trust, which is currently in the process of being set up, will be active from next year and plans to focus on long-term support for a small number of major projects to ensure maximum impact.

JTI plan to appoint Ian Paisley, MP for North Antrim, as the inaugural chairman of the new trust.

Mr Paisley will be joined on the board by James Perry, vice-chairman of the Ballymena Business Centre and current high sheriff of Co Antrim, Pat McCallion, former senior shop steward for the TGWU at the Lisnafillan Factory in Ballymena and chairman of the Ballymena Credit Union, and Karen Reynolds, JTI’s head of community Relations.

Mr Paisley said Tuesday: “JTI / Gallaher has been at the heart of my constituency for many years and this significant commitment by the company to the local community will help deliver real opportunities for job creation and skills development.

“I look forward to working with the trust and the local community to maximise the positive impact of this legacy for the people of Ballymena.”