Bombardier plan to cut more than 1,000 Belfast jobs a 'cruel blow' for Northern Ireland

The aerospace manufacturer plans a global cull of 7,000 due to falling sales

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The Independent Online

Bombardier Aerospace, Northern Ireland’s largest manufacturer, is slashing more than 1,000 jobs as part of a global cull by its Canadian parent company, in a “cruel blow” for the region.

A total of 580 jobs will go at the Belfast factory in 2016  and 500 more next year; Bombardier is to cut 7,000 jobs worldwide to cushion falling sales. 

Staff at Bombardier’s train-making factory in Derby will also be cut, with 270 jobs set to go this year. 

“We deeply regret the impact this will have on our workforce and their families, but it is crucial that we right-size our business in line with market realities,” the company said. 

The move has been prompted by Bombardier’s sluggish performance and the traumatic launch of its new C Series planes, which have been dogged by delays and a lack of buyers. 

The lay-offs will cost it between $250m (£175m) and $300m this year. Overall 3,200 jobs will be lost in transportation, 2,500 in aero structures and engineering, 800 in aerospace development and 500 in business aircraft. 

Staff have not been told where the axe will fall, but the company said the cuts will come from across several divisions in Belfast.  

Bombardier employs 4,800 people in four locations in Northern Ireland – East Belfast, Newtonabbey, Dunmurry and Newtonards – to make plane wings and fuselages. 

The Montreal-based giant grabbed a foothold in Belfast when it acquired the engineering firm Short Brothers, the world’s first maker of commercial aircraft and an emblem of the city’s manufacturing heritage. 

Shorts was founded in 1908 in Battersea, London, and later moved to Belfast; it was nationalised in 1943 to help with the war effort, but was later denationalised and was sold to Bombardier for £30m in 1989.  

Alain Bellemare, Bombardier’s boss who was appointed just a year ago, said that while jobs would be lost, the company was hiring staff to help it make its C Series planes.

Bombardier’s shares in Canada rose 20 per cent in early trading on the back of a potentially lucrative deal to supply Air Canada with 45 of its C Series planes, a rare boost the aircraft which has become a millstone around the neck of the group since development began more than a decade ago. 

Production delays on the $5bn-plus project and lack of interest from buyers faced with cheaper aircraft from rivals such as Boeing and Airbus forced the group to accept a $1bn cash injection from the Quebec government last October to keep the project going.   

The Air Canada deal, which has not yet been fully sealed, is the aircraft’s first order in nearly a year and a half.