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Bombardier weighs up future of Belfast staff in plans to cut 2,500 jobs

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Bombardier's base in Belfast

Bombardier's base in Belfast

Bombardier's base in Belfast

Aerospace giant Bombardier has said it is looking at staff requirements in Belfast after its Canadian parent company announced 2,500 job losses.

It is the latest sign of growing pressure on the aerospace sector here in response to a global crisis in aviation following lockdown.

Thompson Aero in Portadown, which makes aircraft seats, announced 500 job losses among its 1,220 staff this week.

But Bombardier in Belfast may escape the worst of the cuts at this point, with a spokesman for Bombardier Aviation telling Canadian radio that up to 1,900 of the posts affected would be lost in Canada.

Around 500 positions would be cut in its operation in Mexico, 40 in North America and 40 in other territories.

The company employs 22,000 people worldwide, including 3,500 in Belfast.

However, the Belfast operation is in the process of being sold to US company Spirit AeroSystems.

A spokesman for Bombardier in Belfast said: "Bombardier Aviation announced that it would adjust its workforce to align with current market conditions reflecting the extraordinary industry interruptions and challenges caused by Covid-19.

"In light of this, we are reviewing our requirements for our Northern Ireland operations for all our aircraft programmes and will communicate any impact in due course.

"We have no announcement to make at this time."

Trade union Unite said it would not be commenting but added that "our reps are keeping on top of this situation in the context of the overall challenge in aerospace".

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Challenge: Stephen Kelly

Challenge: Stephen Kelly

Challenge: Stephen Kelly

Stephen Kelly, chief executive of Manufacturing NI, said the challenges at Bombardier reflect that the industry faces "very significant trouble". Firms like Airbus and Rolls-Royce were facing declines of between 70% and 90% in demand.

"As the world continues to be in lockdown and travel severely restricted, that aviation market is in severe distress," he said. "For now, Belfast has avoided some of the penalty of this global restriction on travel, but the trend in the industry is extremely negative and the worry would be that Belfast will not be immune to the problems in the sector."

Mr Kelly said that the fortunes of the Belfast workforce should become clearer when the takeover by Spirit is complete.

"We would hope the new owners would see this as a place to invest and very much a global centre for them, and that would help with securing the immediate and long-term future of those workers," he added.

Bombardier Aviation in Canada said it had to cut its workforce due to the "extraordinary industry interruptions and challenges caused by Covid-19". It said the company had responded promptly in the early stages of the pandemic, by suspending manufacturing before reopening over the last month with safety measures in place.

It added: "Now with business jet deliveries, industry-wide, forecasted to be down approximately 30% year-over-year due to the pandemic, Bombardier must adjust its operations and workforce to ensure that it emerges from the current crisis on solid footing.

"Accordingly, Bombardier Aviation has made the difficult decision to reduce its workforce by approximately 2,500 employees.

"The majority of these reductions will impact manufacturing operations in Canada and will be carried out progressively throughout 2020. Bombardier's worldwide customer service operations have continued to operate largely uninterrupted throughout the pandemic."

Belfast Telegraph