Belfast Telegraph

Bombardier and Boeing: Workers 'holding their breath' as Government says dispute is 'unwarranted and unjustified'

By John Mulgrew and Michael McHugh

Bombardier's thousands of Northern Ireland workers are "holding their breath" as they await an initial decision on whether a massive legal challenge over the sale of the firm's C Series jets to the US by rival Boeing will be successful.

Today, it's expected a preliminary judgement will be delivered by the Department of Commerce in the US, at around 5pm, UK time.

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.

And the trade dispute with major implications for jobs in Northern Ireland is unjustified and unwarranted, the British Government said.

Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire said: "The UK Government believes clearly that the support that we have given through repayable launch investment to the C Series project is legitimate, is lawful, is within World Trade Organisation rules and therefore that the actions that have been brought around this case are unwarranted."

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.

Bombardier employs around 4,500 staff here, with up to 1,000 working on the C Series planes

A ruling against Bombardier could see Delta having to pay will be required to pay duties on every plane it receives.

A final decision in the US isn't likely to come until next year, around May or June. But Bombardier would also have the chance to appeal the decision further up the food chain still, and bring an appeal to the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

Moving an emergency motion on Bombardier at Labour Party conference, Unite assistant general secretary Tony Burke said: “We call upon the British and Canadian governments to meet with Boeing to resolve this crisis.

“Workers in Belfast are holding their breath.

“The Prime Minister and the government need to make it clear to Trump they will not stand back and watch our members jobs and our communities threatened like this.

“Mrs May needs to stand up for our members in the aerospace industry and for decent jobs and for manufacturing in the UK."

George Burnside, a senior steward at Bombardier Belfast, said fear of what the ruling may hold was stalking the work floor but the final ruling on punitive charges could be made in the US in February.

"If the C Series is ground to a halt, potentially you have up to 800 jobs there plus you have the supply chains in the wider community as well, so it is a very worrying time.

"But the union is in there fighting hard along with the British Government and along with our local politicians so we are hopeful we can get a resolution."

He said the atmosphere in Bombardier was quiet and muted.

"You can feel the fear in the factory because they don't really know what the actual outcome could be."

Jimmy Kelly, Unite the Union's Irish regional secretary, said Boeing had suffered no detriment and that there was no merit in this case.

"We are emphasising that the British Government needs to be stronger in saying to Boeing that they are reviewing, revisiting, re-looking at contracts that are very sizeable, second only to Japan, and that the British Government should be using that leverage with Boeing."

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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