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Decision on £700m Bombardier aid package a step closer

By John Mulgrew

Published 18/03/2016

Bombardier’s troubled CSeries
Bombardier’s troubled CSeries

A decision could be due soon on whether struggling plane maker Bombardier gets another $1bn (£700m) aid package from Canada.

The aerospace giant, which employs more than 5,000 people in Northern Ireland, is seeking a second bailout, this time from Canada's federal government.

It's already had a $1bn (£700m) bailout from the Quebec regional government.

The firm has also received more than £70m from Invest NI since 2002.

But now it has been reported Canada's government has finished studying a request from Bombardier, and is due to make an announcement on whether to go ahead with the bailout, within weeks.

It needs the cash to help with its CSeries passenger jets - of which the wings and bodies are made in Belfast - which are long-delayed and over-budget.

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told Bloomberg Television that the CSeries was a "fabulous" plane.

Last month, Bombardier revealed it was axing more than 1,000 jobs in Belfast in yet another hammer blow to Northern Ireland manufacturing.

The east Belfast-based plane-maker is slashing a fifth of its entire workforce here in what's been described as a "devastating blow".

Asked whether there was any concern Belfast's workforce could get left behind, with Canada's focus on its own staff if there is a further bail-out, Bombardier Belfast's vice-president Michael Ryan said: "No. We are a source of competitive advantage to them. Being in the UK is a source of competitive advantage to them."

Mr Ryan previously told the Belfast Telegraph he could not rule out additional job losses in the coming years.

"No. I would be a fool to try and do that," he said.

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.

At one stage, Bombardier 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 losses are due to be spread across the shop floor, administration, technical and management.

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

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.

Belfast Telegraph

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