Fokker blow to Shorts workers

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The Independent Online
Shorts, the Belfast aerospace company, confirmed yesterday that 1,000 jobs would be lost because of the collapse of Fokker, but believed it could limit compulsory cuts to around 300.

Shorts has asked the UK government if it could switch 300 production workers to training programmes in preparation for contracts the company expects to become available later this year.

The company, which makes wings for the Dutch aircraft group, said about 540 temporary employment contracts would be ended over the next three months, and about 250 voluntary losses were likely.

Shorts closed production of Fokker 100/70 wings last Friday after the Dutch government failed to find a buyer for the company, majority-owned by Germany's Daimler-Benz.

Ken Brundle, vice-president of Shorts, said yesterday that his company was pursuing potential new business opportunities in the civil and military sectors.

These included bids for government defence programmes such as the Replacement Maritime Patrol Aircraft, in which Shorts is teamed with British Aerospace. It is also involved in a missiles tender with Texas Instruments.

"Decisions on these programmes are expected later this year. Success on these important programmes, whilst they would not create an immediate replacement of production work, would create significant job opportunities in Shorts in the next four years," Mr Brundle said.

"We are reasonably optimistic. We had the opportunity to decide who we would partner on these tenders. We selected BAe and Texas Instruments because we thought they were the best products and we thought they had the best opportunities for success."

Shorts, owned by Canada's Bombardier, had become a sombre place, he told the Reuters news agency. "There is a sense of loss and a sense of sadness. The Fokker assembly line has been right at the heart of our main factory operations for the best part of 30 years."