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'Get tough' call to Theresa May as Bombardier staff vow to step up tariffs battle

By Margaret Canning

Trade union Unite is to "ramp up" its campaigning on behalf of thousands of workers at aerospace giant Bombardier in Belfast, whose jobs are at risk in a bitter trade dispute.

Officials brought the crusade to Westminster this week, with MPs including Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn wearing 'I back Bombardier' badges.

But Davy Thompson, regional officer at Unite, said that marked only the beginning of its drive to protect Bombardier jobs in Belfast.

The Canadian firm employs around 4,000 over four sites, with 1,000 working in a purpose-built facility on construction of wings for the C Series narrow-bodied plane.

But the C Series is facing turbulence after US aerospace rival Boeing complained that it had received unfair assistance from governments in Canada and the UK - and had 'dumped' its aircraft on the US market by selling them at below-cost prices.

And the US Department of Commerce has made decisions in favour of Boeing, leading to tariffs of 300% being imposed on C Series planes which are to be sold in the US to Delta Air Lines.

The preliminary ruling on tariffs will have to go before the US International Trade Commmission for a final ruling in February.

This week Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told President Donald Trump that it would retaliate for Boeing's move by reviewing Canadian defence procurement contracts with the US manufacturing giant.

Mr Thompson said Prime Minister Theresa May needed to take an equally hard line.

"We have been quite clear that Theresa May has to say similar to what Trudeau had said," Mr Thompson said.

"It's quite clear that needs to be done and we believe it needs to be done now.

"There is no point in waiting until February. It needs to be done Asap."

He pointed out Boeing had contracts worth around £4.5bn in the UK.

"It's time the UK used that as leverage and got in a room with the US, Boeing and the Canadian Government," he added.

He said subsidies which had been given to Bombardier to help the C Series launch were "entirely legitimate" and included £113m towards the cost of the wings in the form of repayable loans. Mr Thompson said the C Series had proved its mettle in service with customers Air Baltic and Swiss Air.

"It is now the leading aircraft it in its field," he added.

And he said the union would step up its campaign for a solution. "This is only the first week of it and we will ramp it up to the last days until we get a resolution," he insisted.

He said the union planned to take the dispute to Brussels to argue its case to MEPs.

He does not believe Boeing's case would have succeeded had it been brought to the World Trade Organisation (WTO), as it was not operating in the same market as the C Series, which seats between 110 and 150 passengers.

"Their complaint wouldn't have gotten in through the door of the WTO, as they wouldn't have been able to show material damage," he said.

Belfast Telegraph

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