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Union lets fly at 'corporate bully' Boeing over Belfast's Bombardier dispute

By John Mulgrew

There must be an end to "corporate bullying" by aviation giant Boeing which is threatening hundreds of Bombardier workers in Northern Ireland, it has been claimed.

A challenge by Boeing against its rival being "subsidised" to build its part-Belfast made C Series planes, if successful, could effectively price out and cut off Bombardier's largest market - the US - and lead to hundreds of job losses.

Close to 1,000 of the Canadian manufactuer's 4,500 Northern Ireland staff are currently working on the C Series jets.

The row has seen Prime Minister Theresa May calling President Donald Trump in a bid to find a solution.

Speaking at a union meeting in Brighton, Unite assistant general secretary Tony Burke said that "Boeing's attempts to link this public investment to the allegation of unfair competition are unsustainable; indeed, in the case of the sale of planes to Delta Airlines which has been raised, Boeing did not even make a bid".

"Unite is demanding the Prime Minister and the Government stand up for the workforce in Northern Ireland and our aerospace industry and to stand up for decent jobs.

"She needs to tell President Trump she will not stand by and watch Boeing threaten thousands of jobs."

DUP leader Arlene Foster and Sinn Fein's Michelle O'Neill have written to US Vice-President Mike Pence over concerns about the workforce here.

Mrs May will now meet with her counterpart Justin Trudeau in Canada next week to discuss the issue.

Dr Esmond Birnie, senior economist at the Ulster University Economic Policy Centre, said that "until the election of President Trump, most major governments paid lip service to free and fair trade".

"Alongside this, however, they attempt to protect aerospace as the 'must have', strategic and high technology sector," he said.

"For decades the European aviation sector has envied what they see as US Federal Government subsidy of Boeing and other American firms through defence-related contracts. The Americans have accused Airbus of being heavily subsidised.

"Notwithstanding recent cut-backs, Bombardier continues to be a major employer in the greater Belfast area with about 4,500 jobs."

He added: "Unsurprisingly, the UK Government has tried to respond to Boeing's claims.

"Unfortunately, given the very high stakes, trade disputes and even trade wars are quite common in aerospace."

Bombardier should find out on the 25th of this month whether the US Department of Commerce will rule in favour of Boeing, and whether it will impose duties against Bombardier.

Belfast Telegraph

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