Belfast Telegraph

DUP and Sinn Fein in talks with Bombardier over future Belfast site

Bombardier employs 3,600 people
Bombardier employs 3,600 people
Allan Preston

By Allan Preston

The DUP and Sinn Fein have raised concerns with Bombardier over plans to sell its Northern Ireland operation.

The Canadian aerospace giant, which employs around 3,600 people in Northern Ireland, recently announced plans to offload the business.

After meeting with representatives from the firm, DUP leader Arlene Foster and East Belfast MP Gavin Robinson said: "Our meeting with Bombardier was an opportunity to gain a detailed understanding of plans for the sale, the process around it and confirmation that the firm is and remains an attractive proposition for future growth.

"We have undertaken to give support and to use our influence with the Government to support the process. We recognise the strategic, economic and industrial position which Bombardier holds within Northern Ireland and the unique skill of its unrivalled workforce."

A delegation led by Sinn Fein deputy leader Michelle O'Neill also met with union and management officials.

Employment spokesman Declan Kearney MLA said the firm's Belfast plant should only be sold as a going concern.

"There are very serious concerns about Bombardier's intention to sell the plant," he added.

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"Unite impressed upon us its objective to see the local operation sold as a going concern, maintaining the existing workforce and all component parts of the local company."

Mr Kearney said his party made this clear to Bombardier chief executive Michael Ryan. He also called for "maximum communication" with politicians, unions and the workforce.

The Sinn Fein MLA said any buyer should recognise the expertise and skills of the workforce by making a commitment to retain the plant and jobs on the same terms and conditions, including pay and pension rights.

Earlier this month, the new chief executive of rival firm Airbus hinted his company could step in to buy Bombardier's Northern Ireland operation.

Speaking in London, Guillaume Faury confirmed the Toulouse-based group was considering an acquisition.

A key selling point would be that the Belfast operation already manufactures wings for Airbus's A220 aircraft.

Airbus acquired a majority stake in the jet - previously known as the CSeries - from Bombardier last summer.

"We will make sure that whatever happens preserves our interest," said Mr Faury.

In a statement earlier this month, Bombardier said any new buyer would have to "operate responsibly and help us achieve our full growth potential".

The company added: "We understand that this announcement may cause concern among our employees, but we will be working closely with them and our unions as matters progress and through any future transition period to a new owner."

No new workforce announcements were made at the time of the announcement, but Bombardier said it would continue with plans to make the business more competitive.

Belfast Telegraph