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Unions vow support for Bombardier staff as Boeing row threatens jobs

By John Mulgrew

Dozens of trade unions have pledged their support for Bombardier's 4,500 workers in Northern Ireland facing the potentially "devastating impact" of a transatlantic trade row.

Leaders of the 44 unions in Ireland met this week to discuss the threat to Bombardier's workforce here, amid a trade challenge by US rival Boeing.

Boeing claims that Bombardier's C Series aircraft, part of which is made in Belfast, are being 'subsidised', in part, due to a $1bn bailout by the regional Quebec government in Canada.

If successful, it could scupper a multi-billion deal with Delta for up to 125 aircraft, effectively price out and cut off its largest market, the US, and lead to hundreds of job losses.

Following a meeting of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU), Owen Reidy, assistant general secretary, said that the "dispute between Boeing and Bombardier has the potential to have a devastating impact on the workers and the wider Northern Ireland economy".

"These are highly skilled, decent jobs that must be protected. It is incumbent on the two largest parties in Northern Ireland to continue to work together on this issue and use whatever leverage they have to support the workers," he said.

Boeing has stood firmly behind its case, and claimed Bombardier is selling aircraft at "absurdly low prices... in a classic case of dumping".

A court is due to give a preliminary ruling on the complaint on Monday, with industry experts warning a decision is likely to go in favour of Boeing.

Concerns over Northern Ireland jobs prompted Prime Minister Theresa May to raise the issue directly with US President Donald Trump.

Mr Reidy said: "There is also a particular responsibility and onus on the UK government to support the interests of these workers at this time to ensure they do not become the victims of a battle between two large multi-national corporations.

"There are countless supply chain companies and workers both in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland that will also be impacted should a negative decision be made against Bombardier at the International Trade Commission in the US.

"The Irish Congress of Trade Unions will be doing what it can with the Irish government, our colleagues in the TUC and the international trade union movement, to seek to ensure that all of these jobs which are a critical part of the Northern Ireland economy are protected."

A decision in favour of Boeing could have a drastic effect on a network of firms working in the sector here.

Bombardier has accused rival Boeing of "hypocrisy" in their ongoing bitter dispute.

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