Wings hope for Belfast fac­tory

Bom­bardier sales boss says north­ern ire­land op­er­a­tions could end up sup­ply­ing air­bus

Belfast Telegraph - Business Telegraph - - Front Page - BY JOHN MULGREW

BOM­BARDIER’S sales boss has said its North­ern Ire­land op­er­a­tions could end up sup­ply­ing Air­bus fol­low­ing its his­toric deal with its one-time ri­val.

Fred Cromer was speak­ing in Dubai af­ter Air­bus an­nounced it’s tak­ing a ma­jor­ity stake in the part-belfast made C Se­ries pas­sen­ger planes.

The fu­ture of some 4,000 jobs at Bom­bardier’s North­ern Ire­land sites has been threat­ened fol­low­ing a chal­lenge by aero­space gi­ant Boe­ing.

That led to a pre­lim­i­nary rul­ing by the US Depart­ment of Com­merce, which could see a 300% tax ap­plied to all C Se­ries sales to the US.

Cana­dian-owned Bom­bardier pro­duces the wings and part of the C Se­ries fuse­lage in Belfast.

Bom­bardier has now linked up with Air­bus, which has a plant in the US, in an at­tempt to avoid the crip­pling tar­iffs.

Mr Cromer, who is part of the Bom­bardier del­e­ga­tion at this week’s Dubai Air­show, told Bloomberg yes­ter­day: “There is a real op­por­tu­nity for Air­bus to come in and cre­ate op­por­tu­ni­ties at that fa­cil­ity.”

And Mr Cromer told the BBC: “My mes­sage to all em­ploy­ees on the C Se­ries pro­gramme, and cer­tainly in Belfast, is to keep do­ing what you’re do­ing. You are pro­duc­ing in Belfast amaz­ing wing tech­nol­ogy.”

Dr Es­mond Birnie, se­nior econ­o­mist with Ul­ster Univer­sity’s Eco­nomic Pol­icy Cen­tre, says given Bom­bardier has in­vested a lot of cap­i­tal into the C Se­ries pro­duc­tion and has sig­nif­i­cant ex­per­tise that it “should be in a strong po­si­tion go­ing for­ward to main­tain it­self as a ma­jor pro­duc­tion lo­ca­tion”.

Trade union GMB has also now said it re­ceived strong re­as­sur­ances from EU Com­mis­sion of­fi­cials and MEPS that the Bom­bardier case and the threat to jobs in North­ern Ire­land was be­ing taken “very se­ri­ously” fol­low­ing “ex­tremely pos­i­tive” talks.

Michael Mul­hol­land, GMB re­gional or­gan­iser, said: “The talks were ex­tremely pos­i­tive and GMB se­cured a firm com­mit­ment from the EU to work to­gether with GMB to try to re­solve this is­sue and pro­tect vi­tal jobs in North­ern Ire­land. Brussels clearly takes our mem­bers’ jobs very se­ri­ously in­deed — they’ve got our back.

“Now it’s up to the UK gov­ern­ment to show the same com­mit­ment.”

But Bom­bardier’s work­force here still hasn’t re­ceived as­sur­ances over its fu­ture de­spite US sug­ges­tions that a 300% tax on the C Se­ries could be al­tered.

Wil­bur Ross’s Depart­ment of Com­merce im­posed a pre­lim­i­nary duty on sales of C Se­ries air­craft to the US, fol­low­ing the chal­lenge by Boe­ing.

Speak­ing in London last week, he said: “We have ob­vi­ously had dis­cus­sions here be­cause of Shorts (Bom­bardier) in North­ern Ire­land,” he said. “We as of yet do not know very much about the pro­posed trans­ac­tion be­tween Bom­bardier and Air­bus.

“As we un­der­stand it, they have yet to ex­e­cute a de­fin­i­tive agree- ment, much less real de­tails about where will things be pro­duced and all that.”

Davy Thomp­son of the Unite union said Mr Ross’s words were “a rou­tine state­ment of­fer­ing no as­sur­ance what­so­ever to the 4,000 Bom­bardier work­ers in North­ern Ire­land” or those in the wider econ­omy.

Air­bus is tak­ing a ma­jor­ity stake in the C Se­ries pas­sen­ger plane

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