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Job losses possible as Bombardier transfers staff amid quiet sales

By John Mulgrew

Published 26/08/2016

Bombardier is moving some of its staff from its Learjet programme due to slowing sales of the product
Bombardier is moving some of its staff from its Learjet programme due to slowing sales of the product

Bombardier is moving workers at its US Learjet production line amid slow sales of the business jets.

The company has not ruled out job losses at the Kansas facility, which also does work on the CSeries passenger jets, which are part-made in Belfast.

It comes after the Belfast Telegraph revealed earlier this month that Bombardier was moving some of its operations away from Northern Ireland to cheaper countries, including Mexico and Morocco.

The company, which employs around 5,000 staff here, said it was moving workers from its Learjet site in Kansas to other facilities, and that it had not ruled out the possibility of jobs going as a result.

A spokesman for Bombardier said the firm did not comment on production rate and sales.

But he confirmed the company was being aggressive in the areas in which it competes.

The company says it "prudently" manages its costs.

Bombardier spokesman Mark Masluch told newspaper the Wichita Eagle: "It's really related to the production support of the Learjet 70/75.

"That's what we are working through right now. We're hoping to reassign as many people as possible."

Earlier this month, the plane-maker confirmed the transfer of "certain activities", which 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".

The 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 is not clear whether the move will mean additional redundancies at the firm.

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

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

In Northern Ireland, around 700 jobs will go this year, and a total of 1,080 positions 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.

But despite a slow start, Bombardier has since landed several large orders for its CSeries passenger jet.

That includes a deal to sell 75 of the CS100 aircraft to Delta Airlines, with the potential for a further 50 orders.

And Belfast has also been 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.

This week, Bombardier customer Swiss Air said it was "satisfied" with the performance of the passenger jets, a month after going into service.

Belfast Telegraph

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