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Bombardier fears after talks over new jet falter

By John Mulgrew

Published 08/10/2015

Workers at Bombardier are in the dark about the future of the aerospace giant in Belfast amid the turmoil surrounding its struggling CSeries planes.

The Canadian-owned company employs around 5,500 people in Northern Ireland, with the majority based in east Belfast.

But news that talks with rival Airbus aimed at helping rejuvenate the ailing CSeries jet programme have broken down has raised concerns.

More than half-a-billion pounds has been invested in Bombardier's commercial passenger plane series in Belfast, where the wings are made. But the jets are already three years overdue, more than £1bn over budget, and have not reached their sales targets.

Both the CS100 and larger CS300 planes are due to come into service next year.

Bombardier has faced hundreds of job cuts over the past few years. As recently as May, the plane maker revealed it was cutting at least 220 staff.

Economist Andrew Webb, of Webb Advisory, said staff building the aircraft wings "have shown great skills and expertise" but that "the delays have been worrying" for Bombardier.

And Davy Thompson of the Unite union added "there is concern" for its members, other staff and firms which supply Bombardier parts and labour.

One worker at Bombardier told the Belfast Telegraph the news had surprised staff, but that it "wasn't shocking either".

"There's been a lot of rumours over the last year, but that has died down recently," he said.

"I would say any serious decisions will be made in Canada, not here.

"However, there's not a feeling of complete desperation either, just a lot riding on the CSeries."

The CS300 aircraft was put on display in Belfast in June after flying in from the Paris Air Show.

The company's Belfast base has had its ups and downs in the past few years, with hundreds of jobs being cut and ongoing delays plaguing the CSeries project.

Another source familiar with Bombardier said news that a potentially crucial tie-up with Airbus had collapsed was the "most worrying thing out of Bombardier in recent times".

There has been speculation that the Canadian-owned business is exploring the sale of a stake in arms of the company.

It also continues to remain tight-lipped about concerns over the CSeries and staff in Belfast.

"We will neither comment nor speculate on the potential outcomes of commercial discussions," a spokesman said.

"Belfast continues to play a major role in the CSeries programme."

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