Bombardier axes 560 jobs at Belfast aircraft plant

The Canadian aircraft manufacturer Bombardier yesterday axed 560 jobs at its Shorts factory in Belfast and warned that a further 330 could go if the troubled US airline Delta pulls out of an order for regional jets.

The 560 job losses are equivalent to 10 per cent of the Shorts workforce and part of a total of 2,000 redundancies at Bombardier, split between Montreal and Belfast.

Bombardier blamed the cutbacks on a downturn in demand for regional jets following heavy losses at major customers such as US Airways, which last week entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, and Delta, which is considering following suit.

The cutbacks are a severe blow for Northern Ireland. Shorts is the biggest manufacturing company in the province employing 5,600. Thousands more jobs in supply companies depend on the Belfast plant, which last year awarded contracts worth £84m to suppliers in Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

Belfast builds the fuselage and engine nacelles for the family of Bombardier regional jets and and has a workforce of 5,600. That will come down to 4,700 if Delta reneges on its remaining order for 41 regional jets. In total, 1,300 jobs will go at Bombardier if Delta fails to take delivery of the aircraft.

Amicus, the trade union representing shop floor workers at Shorts, urged the company to take a "humane and pragmatic" approach to the job losses and avoid compulsory redundancies wherever possible. John Wall, the Amicus national secretary for aerospace, added that the cutbacks should not be allowed to jeopardise Belfast's chances of being selected to build Bombardier's new 150-seater jet, the C-series.

Bombardier is due to decide early next year whether to go ahead with the $2bn (£1.1bn) development programme and where to manufacture the jet. The UK government is working on an aid package to help bring the project to Belfast.