Belfast Telegraph

Bombardier wins despite 'rhetoric', insists top Airbus man

Victory doesn't change firm's tie-up deal, says industrialist

By John Mulgrew

Bombardier's massive victory against Boeing in the US is "positive news" for the thousands of Belfast workers despite negative "rhetoric" which expected the giant to lose its case, a top industrialist has said.

Sir John Parker, from Co Down, also said that the win for Bombardier would not change the Canadian firm's tie-up with Airbus. Sir John is a board member with the French aerospace giant.

Thousands of Bombardier workers here breathed a sigh of relief on Friday evening when the US International Trade Commission ruled in its favour amid a challenge by Boeing.

Boeing claimed Bombardier was being unfairly subsidised in the sale of its part-Belfast made C Series planes and was selling them at below cost price.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Sir John Parker said: "I'm on the board of Airbus, so we have been very happy with the news.

"It seemed, to some extent if you had listened to all the pundits, that it was only going to go one way.

"In the wider sense, in the US, it clearly is very positive news, despite the rhetoric, that common sense and the law has prevailed and that is good news for rest of the world, and this transaction."

East Belfast DUP MP Gavin Robinson said there had been a slew of pessimistic comments from London and Canada, believing that the Trump administration would lean strongly on the ITC and influence its decision in favour of Boeing - a US firm.

However, it’s understood around 100 jobs are being lost at Bombardier following the announcement of global cuts last year.

Speaking about the ruling in the US, Sir John Parker said: “We are all very happy, and very relieved for the workforce in Belfast.”

But he said Bombardier’s win over Boeing would not change the Canadian firm’s tie-up with Airbus.

“This did not impact our decision to go ahead... it was clear and it is good to have it behind us, but it wasn’t seen as a major obstacle to our tie-up with Bombardier and the C Series.”

Bombardier agreed to tie-up with Airbus last year, which would see the completion of its jets in Alabama, in an attempt to get around a 292% tariff on sales to America, which was initially imposed by the US Department of Commerce. That has now been overruled by the ITC.

Meanwhile, asked about the latest job cuts in Northern Ireland, a spokeswoman for Bombardier said: “Following the 7,500 global workforce reductions announced by Bombardier Inc back in October 2016, we continue to review our manpower requirements in Belfast and confirmed in October 2017 that we needed to reduce our workforce levels.

“Those impacted are functional support personnel, including managers and professional staff.”

Green Party councillor for East Belfast Georgina Milne said: “The workers of Bombardier are constantly under threat of redundancy, through no fault of their own.

“Like many in east Belfast, my own father works in Bombardier and this recent conflict with the tariffs has been hanging over the heads of my family — and the heads of hundreds of east Belfast residents for some time now.”

Speaking about the US ruling, Mr Robinson said: “There was doubt whether the ITC would be wholly independent... the more pessimistic comments came from London and Ottawa.”

He dismissed claims, included in a BBC Spotlight programme, that a four-page submission from the UK government was overly simplified, and not indicative of the work and engagement that had been undertaken.

“There were a couple of aspects to that... there were 7,000 pages (from the UK government) to the Department of Commerce. Bombardier submitted 800 pages to the ITC,” he added.

He said as a result, the UK did not wish, or need, to submit similar levels of information.

“As someone who holds the candle for the plant and workforce, I was struck by disparity... but I sought assurances on the content (of the submission),” he said.

Belfast Telegraph

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