Doubt hovers over Belfast aerospace plant

The Bombardier plant in Belfast

Canadian aerospace giant Bombardier is to sell off its operation in Belfast, putting 3,600 jobs in doubt.

Bombardier bought Short Brothers in 1989 in the east of the city and is one of the largest employers in Northern Ireland.

In a statement, Bombardier said: “We understand that this announcement may cause concern among our employees, but we will be working closely with them and our unions as matters progress, and through any future transition period to a new owner.

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“There are no new workforce announcement as a result of this decision, but our management team will continue to drive ongoing transformation initiatives to improve productivity and increase our competitiveness, to give more weight to our unique value proposition to potential buyers.”

Unite, the union representing the plant’s employees, said its concerns were with the employees and their security of employment.

Regional coordinating officer Susan Fitzgerald said: “By hook or by crook we will play a role in watching who is putting their name forward.

“We will be closely watching that and if we see rogue elements and people looking to come in and asset strip or take a blade to this workforce, we will cause hell.”

Unite’s Davy Thompson said he was hopeful about the Belfast operation.

“Bombardier has been profitable in the past, it can be profitable in the future,” he said.

“We are hopeful if we get the right investment that will give us the opportunity to grow.”

DUP MP for East Belfast, Gavin Robinson, said the announcement by Bombardier was “very significant.”

“Bombardier is an integral part of the Northern Ireland economy, with the skills of the local workforce having been recognized throughout the company,” he said.

“The partnership with Airbus represented a fresh opportunity for Bombardier and there have been a number of significant orders received since that announcement.”

He added: “It is welcome that there have been no workforce implications in relation to this announcement and both staff and the company can be assured of any support locally, or in London, which might assist them at this time.”