Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Deal a huge fillip for Bombardier workers

Boeing has fallen victim to the law of unintended consequences in its bid to block sales of Bombardier's C Series aircraft in the US. The action against the Canadian firm, which has a vitally important manufacturing operation in Northern Ireland, opened the door for Airbus to ride to the rescue.

Airbus and Boeing have had long-running disputes, and no doubt the American firm will try to challenge the move by the European plane-maker to take a majority shareholding in production of the C Series.

Airbus plans to assemble the aircraft at its American factory, thereby circumventing the 300% US tariffs imposed on the model, which would have made it virtually impossible to sell there.

This is good news for Northern Ireland where 1,000 workers - and more in the supply chain - are involved in making the innovative composite wings, a feature helping make the C Series one of the most economical in its class and a front-runner in the short haul market.

But it will be the middle of next year before the Airbus deal goes through, and no doubt there will be further turbulence in the interim. As one of the unions pointed out, the devil will be in the detail, but there is no denying that Bombarier workers here are in a much better place than they were last week.

What the Boeing-Bombardier dispute brought into sharp relief was the importance of the plane-making operation to the local economy. Global aircraft markets are volatile and the big manufacturers like Boeing and Airbus hold enormous sway.

Northern Ireland has a long tradition in plane-making and the skill and innovation of the workforce is apparent, but it could be put at naught by external factors.

It does not appear that Airbus' intervention was the result of any political pressure, but rather the company seeing a good business opportunity sweetened by the chance to score a point over Boeing.

Apart from the DUP appealing to the Prime Minister to intervene in the dispute, Northern Ireland was voiceless at a time of crisis due to the stasis at Stormont.

The lack of a functioning devolved administration makes the province a less desirable place for inward investors to do business and decreases our ability to find new jobs.

Bombardier's plight was a grim warning to local politicians to up their game, get back to work and devise policies to boost the economy.

Belfast Telegraph

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