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Bombardier bombshell as 1000 Belfast jobs axed in cuts workers never saw coming

Travails of CSeries prompts drastic cuts at embattled plane maker as Northern Ireland plants bear brunt of company's global restructuring

By John Mulgrew

Published 18/02/2016

Workers enter the Queen’s Island site yesterday
Workers enter the Queen’s Island site yesterday
Workers enter the Queen’s Island site yesterday

Bombardier is axing more than 1,000 jobs in Belfast in yet another hammer blow to Northern Ireland manufacturing.

The east Belfast-based planemaker is slashing a fifth of its entire workforce here in what's been described as a "devastating blow" for the Northern Ireland economy.

It currently employs 5,300 staff here, the majority of whom are full-time permanent employees.

Have you been affected or do you work at Bombardier? Contact us here.

Last year the company received a $1bn (£660m) bailout from the Quebec regional government. The firm has also received more than £70m from Invest NI since 2002.

The aerospace giant's vice-president Michael Ryan said he could not rule out additional job losses in the coming years.

"No. I would be a fool to try and do that," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

It's understood the job cuts will hit contractors first, and then other areas in the company.

Bombardier has been struggling under the weight of its long-delayed and over-budget CSeries jets. The wings and many of the fuselages of the planes are built in Northern Ireland.

Staff have told the Belfast Telegraph they were only informed that local losses were on the cards through texts from relatives who heard it in the media.

Bombardier said it was "taking steps to optimise" its workforce and "must adjust its workforce levels downwards by around 580 this year". A further 500 jobs are expected to go next year.

Speaking about the job losses, Mr Ryan said: "For anyone affected, at a Belfast and global level, losing their job is devastating."

Bombardier once employed more than 8,000 staff in Northern Ireland, but that number has fluctuated over the past 15 years.

Mr Ryan said the losses were partly down to a slowing in demand, particularly for business aircraft.

The job cuts will be spread across the shop floor, administration, technical and management.

"The impact will be pretty broad," Mr Ryan said.

Because Bombardier is such a big employer here, Mr Ryan said the losses will have an impact on "our supply chain".

The Canadian-owned aerospace giant is cutting around 7,000 jobs across its operations globally.

The production of wings for the CSeries is Northern Ireland's biggest-ever inward investment programme, worth £520m.

Just last year, it was revealed Bombardier's east Belfast operation was trying to cut costs by a fifth over the next two years.

Staff rejected a pay freeze for the workforce and plans to extend the working week to 37 hours.

Reacting to the revelation staff had heard about Belfast job losses through the media, Mr Ryan said the process of informing workers was "frustrating".

"That's one of the consequences of being a global company," he said.

He does not point any finger of blame at Enterprise Minister Jonathan Bell, who has come under pressure over his handling of Northern Ireland's manufacturing job losses.

Mr Bell said he had no prior knowledge about the job losses, telling the Belfast Telegraph earlier this month that he had "been given nothing to indicate more job losses" at Bombardier.

"The long-term future of Bombardier and its Belfast plant is secure," he said.

Mr Ryan said Stormont and Westminster had given lots of support to Bombardier and, asked whether they should get further involved financially, he said: "At this moment, we are not looking at them."

He could also not rule out a consolidation of Bombardier's Northern Ireland sites. Aside from its main base at Queen's Island, it operates from Dunmurry and the former Nortel site close to Monkstown.

"We keep it all under review. We need to look at every option to optimise costs," he said.

Bombardier was thrown something of a lifeline amid yesterday's bad news, securing 45 firm orders from Air Canada for its CS300 planes. That brings total orders to just under 300.

 

7,000

The number of jobs Bombardier plans to shed globally

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