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Bombardier's £4bn jet order is 'tipping point' that will secure future of Belfast workforce

By John Mulgrew

Published 29/04/2016

The CS100 takes to the skies
The CS100 takes to the skies

Bombardier's massive £4bn order for 75 of its new passenger jets is the "tipping point" for the company and will help secure the firm's huge workforce in Belfast.

Delta Airlines is buying 75 of the new CS100 jets, with the potential for a further 50. Bombardier's Belfast operation, which employs around 5,000 staff, produces the wings and fuselage for the planes.

It's a much needed shot-in-the-arm for the Canadian-owned aerospace giant, which has been struggling to hit sales targets for the planes.

And it comes after it was revealed it is planning to cut 1,080 jobs here in the next two years.

Bombardier said the deal was a "watershed moment". Michael Ryan, Bombardier's vice-president and boss in Belfast, added: "We're delighted that another customer has placed such a significant order for the C Series aircraft.

"This is a further endorsement of the aircraft's excellent operating economics and environmental credentials, to which we in Belfast are contributing with the production of the advanced composite wings."

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

Martin J Craigs, former Shorts/Bombardier worker and ex-chief executive of Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA), said the deal is "vindication for Bombardier".

"The US airlines are going through what some people have called hyper-consolidation, and are making much higher profits.

"Naturally, for Bombardier, that's a good customer to have. An order from Delta is a strong vindication for Bombardier.

"This is potentially a tipping point to make the C Series a long-running success story, after a very difficult early childhood. It can only be seen as a good news story for Belfast, and one that should encourage the workforce."

And the huge order is a "sign of confidence in the company" and the "ingenuity" of the workers in Northern Ireland, said Stephen Kelly, chief executive of Manufacturing NI. "We have remained confident of the success of C Series; manufacturers know great products will always have their time, and today's news we are sure will be followed by many more orders."

Trade union Unite said it hoped some of the planned jobs losses at Bombardier could be now avoided.

Invest NI's chief executive Alastair Hamilton said the deal was "excellent news for Bombardier". Andy Allen, Ulster Unionist Assembly candidate for East Belfast, said while it "remains to be seen" whether any job losses can be stemmed "it is the news that we have been hoping for".

And DUP MP Gavin Robinson said the "order from Delta will be warmly welcomed by everyone associated with Bombardier" and it "must be used as a platform for further growth".

Alliance Assembly candidate Chris Lyttle said the deal was a "ringing endorsement for workers in Belfast".

Following the announcement of 1,080 jobs being cut at Bombardier in Belfast, the firm has also written to staff to say that a further 50 workers could go this year.

It's understood around 300 jobs have already gone across the Belfast operation.

Belfast Telegraph

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