Unions won't 'wave white flag' in ongoing Bombardier dispute
Up to 4,000 Bombardier jobs could be lost here and a further 20,000 supply chain posts put under threat if a 292% tariff on the firm's C Series passenger jets is rubber-stamped by US officials next week, unions have warned.
The US International Trade Commission (ITC) will make a final decision next Thursday on whether to enforce the punitive import duties, which were imposed after rival firm Boeing took a challenge over the sale of the planes in America.
Boeing claimed Bombardier had used Canadian government subsidies to "dump" their planes on the US market at below cost price, giving them an unfair advantage. The firm also claimed it had been damaged by C Series sales to major customers such as Delta.
Yesterday, during a trade union rally attended by hundreds of workers at Bombardier's east Belfast plant, Unite regional officer Susan Fitzgerald said that workers here "won't be collateral damage in a trade war".
Demanding political action at the 11th hour, Ms Fitzgerald warned that if the decision went against the firm they would mobilise the "ferocious power" of the Bombardier workforce, who would be prepared to "flex their muscles".
"The ITC decision directly threatens more than 4,000 workers and indirectly a further 20,000," she said.
Bombardier in Belfast builds the wings and part of the fuselage of the C Series jets.
Addressing the large crowd, Unite regional secretary Jackie Pollock said the unions would "never wave the white flag" and slammed the "meritless" complaint by Boeing.
"We are here, and unlike our government we are united, so we can beat Boeing and their attack on us," he told those assembled. "It's a government that's waved the white flag - the GMB and Unite unions haven't waved that flag and will never wave that flag.
"These tariffs effectively quadruple the price of the C Series in the US, shutting Bombardier out of the largest market globally for the aircraft.
"We are standing up for more than 4,000 people who work for Bombardier in Northern Ireland. We are standing up for the jobs of 20,000 who work in the supply chain who depend on the wages for our members to spend in the economy in Northern Ireland.
"Some 23,000 jobs are at risk in the United States because of Boeing's corporate bullying. Their greed offers nothing to the workers here in Northern Ireland, and especially at Bombardier."
Mr Pollock said that the innovation of the C Series could "create thousands of jobs and transform the world of aviation".
"Boeing has suffered absolutely no damage with the threat of the C Series or the threat of Bombardier, but yet they threaten tens of thousands of workers here in Northern Ireland," he said.
Mr Pollock said the Prime Minister's "huge effort" to defend jobs amounted to two phone calls to Donald Trump.
"Two phone calls is the sum total of what this Prime Minister can do for jobs," he said.
"With 24,000 jobs at risk, a community on the edge of ruin and a peace process which has failed to deliver - we are told two phone calls is all we are worth.
"Not good enough."
Assistant general secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions Owen Reidy said that the Bombardier workers' campaign was backed by the trade union movement across Ireland.
"If good, decent manufacturing jobs here in Northern Ireland are destroyed we all suffer ultimately, whether we are public or private,"he said.
"The local political parties need to use whatever influence, whatever leverage they have whether it's at Westminster, whether it's at Capitol Hill in America, because I think we have suffered for too long where we have lost too many decent, good manufacturing jobs in Northern Ireland. We cannot afford a further dumbing-down of this economy."
GMB organiser Michael Mulholland told the workers that they should have had a First Minister and Deputy First Minister "leading the fight" for them.
Unite shop steward Kieran Ellison, who works as a warehouse operator at Bombardier, said workers were "very fearful" over the outcome of the decision.
"The workers want to carry on doing what they do for a living and to provide for their families and have stability," he said.
"This tariff is anti-trade; they want to kill us dead because we have the superior product.
"If this goes ahead the level of pain we are going to suffer will be unprecedented.
"The C-Series is where our future lies; this is where the workflow was projected to move to but instead it's in major jeopardy. Justin Trudeau is fighting for Canadian workers but I feel particularly let down by Theresa May, and Stormont has become a failure - they should have been representing our interests."