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Bombardier moving work out of Belfast to Mexico and Morocco to cut costs

Exclusive by John Mulgrew

Bombardier is moving some of its operations away from Northern Ireland to cheaper countries including Mexico and Morocco, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.

The plane maker, which employs around 5,000 staff in Belfast, confirmed the transfer of "certain activities" it said it was "unable to undertake competitively in Northern Ireland".

It added while it had undertaken "major investment in Northern Ireland" over the years and will "continue to focus on high-value, high-complexity production", it must balance its costs with sites in Mexico and Morocco to "help to optimise our manufacturing footprint and ensure the future success of our business overall".

This week the Canadian-owned manufacturer said it was bringing forward 95 planned redundancies.

More than 700 staff are due to go this year, with 1,080 planned by 2017.

Bombardier in east Belfast, along with other sites, produces a range of aircraft parts including the wings and fuselage of the flagship CSeries passenger jet.

"It is absolutely critical that we continue to transfer work packages in which we are no longer competitive so we can safeguard the long-term future of our Northern Ireland operations," the company said.

It's not clear whether the move will mean additional redundancies at the firm.

One worker, who did not wish to be identified, said: "Internally, employees have been asked to work harder and smarter each year since I can remember."

The company said it continued to brief staff and unions about changes to the workforce and supply chain.

"We regularly send working parties from Belfast to Morocco, Mexico and other Bombardier sites, as well as to China, and we also host reciprocal working parties here," Bombardier said.

Just this summer it was reported the company was cutting around 200 jobs in Toronto and moving them to Mexico and China.

According to one staff member, some work has flowed from Belfast to Mexico, including the production of composite parts.

"At present it (the Mexico factory) can make almost any structure and will do so soon," they said.

Another employee said that there "has been a lot of the really old legacy contract work moving to Morocco and Mexico due to cost".

Bombardier has invested in its North African factory, which produces operational parts for the CSeries, QSeries and CRJ jets.

Aside from the announcement that more than 700 jobs will go this year, and 1,080 between now and 2017, the company earlier this year asked staff to accept a pay freeze amid a "serious financial crisis" at the plane maker.

However, the workforce in Belfast is taking on a bigger role with the CSeries.

Last year the workforce here produced between 15 and 20 fuselage mid-sections for the aircraft as work was transferred from the company's manufacturing partner in China to the east Belfast plant.

But one Bombardier worker said: "I challenge our unions, who are frightened to rock the boat.

"I'm fed up with hearing, upon another pay-off announcement, that the unions are shocked and surprised.

"We are not. We expect it. We see a bigger picture."

There are now fresh calls from both the Ulster Unionists and the SDLP for Stormont to introduce a dedicated manufacturing strategy in order to tackle job losses - something that was previously rejected by Economy Minister Simon Hamilton.

Belfast Telegraph

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