Union visits US in attempt to safeguard future of Bombardier
Officials from a leading trade union in Northern Ireland are on a whirlwind lobbying tour of the US in a bid to protect Bombardier jobs in Belfast.
A delegation from Unite visited Montreal yesterday, where they held meetings with Bombardier chief executive Alain Bellemare, Canadian politicians and other trade unions.
The second leg of the trip will be in Washington DC, where the delegation are aiming to persuade US politicians to oppose massive punitive tariffs being imposed on Canadian-owned Bombardier's C Series of passenger jets.
A preliminary ruling by the US Department of Commerce could see a 300% tax applied on all C Series jets sold into the US, potentially scuppering a multi-billion pound deal with Delta Air Lines for up to 125 jets.
Bombardier produces the wings and part of the C Series fuselage in Belfast.
The threat of crushing tariffs has put the jobs of the company's 4,000 employees in Northern Ireland at risk.
It followed complaints from aerospace rivals Boeing that the firm was unfairly receiving state subsidies and was selling its C Series planes at a reduced price or below cost.
Bombardier responded by making a deal with Airbus that gave the French aerospace manufacturer a majority stake in the C Series and would see the planes assembled in Alabama in an apparent bid to avoid the import tariffs.
However, Boeing general counsel Michael Luttig has said: "Any duties finally levied against the C Series... will have to be paid on any imported C Series airplane or part, or it will not be permitted into the country."
The US Department of Commerce's determination on the tariffs is due on December 19.
Unite said it "will be bringing pressure to bear in Montreal and Washington, calling for fair play to win the day and get the threat of job destroying tariffs dropped".
The union said it also plans to enlist the support of the European Union, as well as the British and Irish ambassadors to the United States.
Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner is leading the delegation.
"Unite is leaving no stone unturned in our bid to safeguard Bombardier jobs in Northern Ireland and the wider supply chain," he said.
"It is crucial that the threat of these unjust crushing tariffs are removed.
"Boeing does not produce an aircraft in the same class as Bombardier's C Series and didn't even bid for the Delta contract it is complaining about, which leaves its complaint totally without merit.
"If the US government imposes tariffs and Boeing's bullying wins the day, it will damage Bombardier and destroy UK jobs.
"It will also threaten thousands of jobs in Bombardier and its supply chain in the USA."