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Bombardier chief 'couldn't tell staff of job losses any earlier'

By John Mulgrew

Published 19/02/2016

Bombardier’s troubled CSeries
Bombardier’s troubled CSeries

Bombardier's boss in Northern Ireland says he was "frustrated" and "not legally allowed" to tell his Belfast workforce that around 20% of them would be losing their jobs until he was given the green light by the Canadian owners.

Staff told the Belfast Telegraph that they had only heard the news of more than 1,000 redundancies through the media.

Addressing concerns that the bulk of staff found out about job losses through texts, social media, and the Press, he said: "The market communication was at 6am Canadian time, so we are not legally allowed to say anything before 11am our time.

"By 11am our time, we need to cascade the communication, because we can't tell 5,000 people at once, otherwise we'd need to take the Odyssey. It frustrates me, it frustrates some of our people. The vast majority of people fully understand it.

"With social media, with you guys being on the ball, at one minute past 11am, you are going to know there is 580 redundancies in Belfast. I won't have managed to get the guy walking from his locker to the briefing room in that time.

"It's a downside of being part of a big global corporation."

One worker, who did not wished to be named, told the Belfast Telegraph: "It's bad enough to discover that your livelihood is under threat in the normal way, but you shouldn't find out on social media.

"It was my wife who got in touch with me to let me know the grim news."

It was also revealed yesterday that Bombardier is putting the brakes on taking on new apprentices.

Meanwhile, First Minister Arlene Foster has continued to pledge support to both Bombardier and its employees.

And she said she was told by the firm that "nothing could have been done by the Northern Ireland Executive or indeed the UK Government to stop these job losses".

But one aviation industry expert, and former Bombardier worker, told the Belfast Telegraph that Stormont is wasting time "spending energy on rear-view politics".

Martin J Craigs, former chief executive of Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) and chairman of Aerospace Forum Asia, said: "They have to look outwards...you have to engage with world-renowned companies.

"The world doesn't see Northern Ireland as a major player in the world economy.

"But it punches well above its weight in sport and business success.

"But it's far too parochial."

Speaking about Enterprise Minister Jonathan Bell who has come under pressure following a deluge of manufacturing job losses, he said: "With due respect to him, if you look at his background - is he equipped to deal with global economics?"

However, he also said no one in Belfast was to blame for the Bombardier job cuts announced this week.

"I think you need more action backing up the politics. We need people inside the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment to tackle overseas markets."

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