Belfast Telegraph

Bombardier's Belfast factory 'could end up supplying Airbus'

By John Mulgrew

Bombardier's sales boss has said its Northern Ireland operations could end up supplying Airbus following its historic deal with its one-time rival.

Fred Cromer was speaking in Dubai after Airbus announced it's taking a majority stake in the part-Belfast made C Series passenger planes.

The future of some 4,000 jobs at Bombardier's Northern Ireland sites has been threatened following a challenge by aerospace giant Boeing.

That led to a preliminary ruling by the US Department of Commerce, which could see a 300% tax applied to all C Series sales to the US.

Canadian-owned Bombardier produces the wings and part of the C Series fuselage in Belfast.

Bombardier has now linked up with Airbus, which has a plant in the US, in an attempt to avoid the crippling tariffs.

Mr Cromer, who is part of the Bombardier delegation at this week's Dubai Airshow, told Bloomberg yesterday: "There is a real opportunity for Airbus to come in and create opportunities at that facility."

And Mr Cromer told the BBC: "My message to all employees on the C Series programme, and certainly in Belfast, is to keep doing what you're doing. You are producing in Belfast amazing wing technology."

Dr Esmond Birnie, senior economist with Ulster University's Economic Policy Centre, says given Bombardier has invested a lot of capital into the C Series production and has significant expertise that it "should be in a strong position going forward to maintain itself as a major production location".

Trade union GMB has also now said it received strong reassurances from EU Commission officials and MEPs that the Bombardier case and the threat to jobs in Northern Ireland was being taken "very seriously" following "extremely positive" talks.

Michael Mulholland, GMB regional organiser, said: "The talks were extremely positive and GMB secured a firm commitment from the EU to work together with GMB to try to resolve this issue and protect vital jobs in Northern Ireland. Brussels clearly takes our members' jobs very seriously indeed - they've got our back.

"Now it's up to the UK government to show the same commitment."

But Bombardier's workforce here still hasn't received assurances over its future despite US suggestions that a 300% tax on the C Series could be altered.

Wilbur Ross's Department of Commerce imposed a preliminary duty on sales of C Series aircraft to the US, following the challenge by Boeing.

Speaking in London last week, he said: "We have obviously had discussions here because of Shorts (Bombardier) in Northern Ireland," he said. "We as of yet do not know very much about the proposed transaction between Bombardier and Airbus.

"As we understand it, they have yet to execute a definitive agreement, much less real details about where will things be produced and all that."

Davy Thompson of the Unite union said Mr Ross's words were "a routine statement offering no assurance whatsoever to the 4,000 Bombardier workers in Northern Ireland" or those in the wider economy.

Belfast Telegraph

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