Belfast Telegraph

Staff at Bombardier are asked to accept a pay freeze

By John Mulgrew

Staff at aerospace giant Bombardier are being asked to accept a pay freeze amid a "serious financial crisis" at the firm.

Bombardier's east Belfast operation is trying to cut costs by a fifth over the next two years, a document given to the Belfast Telegraph has shown.

It also outlines a two-year pay freeze for the firm's some 5,500 staff, along with the working week being extended to 37 hours for 2016 and 2017.

And workers are being asked to work an extra one hour every Friday for the next two years.

It's the latest indication of trouble at the plane maker, which builds wings for the struggling CSeries passenger jets at its Belfast plant.

The wing production of the narrow-body jet is Northern Ireland's biggest-ever inward investment programme, worth £520m.

Last month, Bombardier received a $1bn (£660m) bail-out from the Quebec regional government and is seeking a further $1bn (£660m) from the new Canadian federal government.

Bombardier has 243 orders for the jet series, short of the target of 300. The programme is now three years delayed and more than £1bn over budget. Stephen Kelly of Manufacturing NI said we "need to make sure Bombardier is a success".

"Not just for the staff, but the impact that has on the supply chain," he said. Dozens of other manufacturing firms rely on Bombardier's buoyancy, and concerns over the future of the company as a whole have already had a direct impact on its suppliers. Earlier this week the Belfast Telegraph revealed delays that have dogged Bombardier's new CSeries jet have forced a Bangor company to put on hold a £3m investment that was set to create 32 jobs down the line.

Denroy Plastics supplies components for the CSeries wings, which are partly made at Bombardier's Belfast plant. It was due to start work this year on a major expansion of its Bangor aerospace facility, but the project won't now begin until 2017 at the earliest.

In response to news of the workforce changes, Bombardier said it "has been in discussions with its trade unions on achieving cost reductions in our Northern Ireland operations, aimed at contributing to the competitiveness of the company going forward".

Union workers will now be balloted on whether to accept the new changes which have been proposed.

Bombardier is pressing ahead with CSeries wing production at its Belfast facility, and the company took part in the Dubai Air Show where it announced that Latvia's airBaltic will be the first airline in the world to fly the CSeries commercially, in about a year's time.

Bombardier said it would deliver the planes to the Latvian flag carrier - which has 13 of the aircraft on firm order and retains options for seven more - in the second half of next year.

Belfast Telegraph