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Fears for Bombardier's Belfast IT staff as firm does $700m outsourcing deal

By John Mulgrew

There are concerns over further job losses at Bombardier in Belfast amid a major plan to outsource IT, it can be revealed.

The Canadian aerospace giant announced this week that it had secured a six-year, $700m deal with IBM.

The outsourcing contract is believed to be a cost-saving measure within the company's IT infrastructure globally.

Around 140 staff at Bombardier here work in IT.

It is understood senior management are flying in from Canada next week to brief workers and management about what impact the move will have on the workforce.

It's also understood staff and unions had a conference call with Bombardier this week about the development.

While up to 140 staff could be affected, union sources say they believe job losses could be mitigated through workers transferring to other roles or leaving the company voluntarily.

Bombardier employs around 4,500 workers across Northern Ireland. The majority are based in Belfast and, among other work, produce the wings and parts of the fuselage for its C Series passenger planes.

It comes after Bombardier slashed more than 1,000 jobs here over the past year.

In October the plane maker announced a further 7,500 staff cuts globally, prompting fears of further cuts in Northern Ireland.

Sean Terriah of Bombardier, said this week: "As part of our turnaround plan, Bombardier is working to improve productivity, reduce costs and grow earnings.

"We will transform our service delivery model to focus on our core competencies, and leverage the best practices of our strategic partner across our infrastructure and operations."

Bombardier in Belfast said it had "no workforce announcements to make at this time".

"The IT transformation we are undergoing is in the planning phase and we will keep employees informed," it said.

Meanwhile, state-owned Chinese aircraft manufacturer Comac is in talks with at least one bank on a tie-up that could involve it making an investment in Bombardier's commercial aerospace arm or taking a stake in the C Series programme, according to the Financial Times.

Access to the C Series programme would boost Comac's aim to become a global aviation leader, competing with Airbus and Boeing.

However, talks between Bombardier and rival Airbus two years ago over a tie-up came to nothing.

Comac has itself tested a new short-haul commercial passenger aircraft, the C919.

Bombardier is also exploring a tie-up with Siemens for its rail business.

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