(Page 3 of 3)
Managers, who often have only one or two unions to deal with, generally agree with Walter Carruthers, managing director of the Ford plant here, that, "on the whole, I think it's probably better" than it would have been had Ford in 1964 chosen a site elsewhere in Britain -- although, he adds, "It's not as good as some would have you believe."Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
* Most work forces are integrated. Of the 1.5 million Ulster population, Protestants make up about two-thirds and Roman Catholics one-third. By law, employers cannot discriminate. But work forces tend to reflect the sectarian mix of the areas in which plants are situated, since the typical immobility of the British worker is heightened here by fears among Catholics of traveling to work across Protestant areas, and vice versa.
While the two sects may antagonize each other by night, however, by day they are less loyal to heredity than to their trade unions.
"If you scratch the surface of any of us here," admits an Irish executive in an American company, "you'll find we're either green or orange." But work, Mr. Carruthers observes, is another story. "It's almost like therapy to them," he says, noting that both the shop floor and the company's social club are essentially trouble-free.
* Personnal security is still something that corporate executives talk about only privately. They speak of solid doors, bulletproof glass, different routes to work each day, and personal firearms. But they hasten to add that such measures are minimal.
"If I felt any serious concern for the safety of my family, I wouldn't be here," says the American director of a large company.
The executives emphasize that the problem is certainly not religious, and not even broadly political, and would agree with a government official who said of the terrorists that "they're not purging some corrupt society in the name of purity and brotherhood -- these are petty thugs." And, while three of the many killed in the past decade have been prominent industrialists, the record of business success here has been keyed to the more normal factors: how sharp the management is, how good the product.
One thing is sure: There is plenty of room for expansion. And, because inward investment (from outside of Northern Ireland) has accounted for 35 percent of Northern Ireland's jobs since 1945 (compared with 16 percent in Scotland), there is plenty of welcome for such undertakings.
The two-year-old push for new business seems to be working. According to David Hume, resident vice-president of Citibank, the prospects are better than they were in 1978. "Several companies have come in and tested the temperature of the water and found they liked it," he says. He expects more in the future.
One government official summed up the importance of inward investment. With his pencil, he circled again the northeast corner of Ireland on a small map as he spoke almost broodingly. "If we could demosntrate to ourselves that this entity was thriving and bustling," he said, "then that in itself would promote a feeling of trust and good will." Northern Ireland would no longer be on a "slippery slope," and would experience "not the vicious circle but the virtuous circle."
As he spoke, a helicopter from the Army base next door thumped away into the distance.