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Coronavirus: Bombardier staff express concerns around social distancing

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Bombardier's base in Belfast

Bombardier's base in Belfast

Bombardier's base in Belfast

Staff at aerospace manufacturing firm Bombardier have expressed concern about social distancing while at work.

A number of employees at the company's east Belfast site brought their concerns to management on Monday morning.

While the company accepted employees had expressed concern, they denied any walkout of staff had taken place.

The UK Government is encouraging everyone to work from home when possible and maintain a distance of two meters to halt the spread of the coronavirus.

And in the Assembly on Monday the justice minister warned businesses and event organisers who defy Stormont coronavirus bans and closure orders could face fines up to £100,000.

Naomi Long said the financial penalties were among new powers set to be made available to the Stormont Executive through emergency laws being passed at Westminster.

Bombardier insisted the firm was complying with the UK Government's advice.

Asked about rumours of a walkout on Monday morning a Bombardier spokesperson said a number of employees raised concerns but they all continued to work.

Discussions between the Canadian company and its workforce are ongoing on the issue.

"As has been the case to date, we are communicating regularly with all our employees, both to provide updates and to answer any concerns they might have," the spokesperson said.

As measures to combat the COVID-19 outbreak are stepped up in the UK, Bombardier continues to take actions to protect its employees, suppliers and customers, and to do its part to limit the spread of the virus.

"As always, the health and safety of our people is our first priority. All our employees on site continue to work. We fully appreciate their concerns and are fully committed to implementing the necessary measures to protect them, while maintaining business continuity during this very challenging period."

The company has implemented travel restrictions globally, limited all but essential visits on site, and supporting employees who can work from home to do so.

"To further protect our staff remaining on site, we have been significantly enhancing our cleaning regimes and facilitating social distancing within the workplace," the spokesperson said.

"We are diligently monitoring this situation, which includes reviewing our production requirements in the context of current circumstances. We continue to follow government advice very carefully and to provide regular updates to all employees.”

On Monday morning the Public Health Agency (PHA) again stressed the need for social distancing after large groups of people across the UK ignored the advice over the weekend. Crows were seen gathering in parks, on beaches and at local events.

PHA Director of Public Health Dr Hugo Van Woerden said ignoring social distancing advice would cost lives.

“I cannot emphasise enough how important it is to practise social distancing as a key step in saving lives. The guidance to socially distance ourselves from others applies to everyone. We should all be taking steps to reduce social interaction between people in order to reduce the transmission of coronavirus," he said.

“Every one of us has a role to play in this battle.”

Bombardier currently employs around 3,600 people in Northern Ireland.

Its Northern Ireland operation was recently sold to the US firm Spirit AeroSystems in a deal worth around £850m.

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