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Union warns Bombardier it will resist any more Belfast job cuts

By Ryan McAleer ·

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The Red Arrows flying past an Airbus 220 on display at the Farnborough Airshow

Reports that Bombardier is under pressure from Airbus to implement 20% cuts at its Belfast operation have been described as "shocking" and "disrespectful" by Unite.

It follows comments from Michael Ryan at the Farnborough International Airshow that more efficiency savings would have to be made on the Belfast production line, where the wings for the A220 aircraft are made.

Mr Ryan is the Canadian aerospace manufacturer's highest ranking director in Northern Ireland.

On the back of 1,000 job losses in recent times, regional organiser for Unite Susan Fitzgerald warned yesterday that Bombardier must expect a reaction if further cuts are imposed.

Formerly known as the C Series, the planes are now under the majority control of Airbus and have been rebranded.

Despite an order for 60 new jets being announced last week by US airline JetBlue, Airbus has made no secret about its intentions to cut the cost of producing the A220.

Mr Ryan told the BBC: "Airbus are going to be challenging all suppliers for cost reductions of 20%.

"How do we do that? Part of it will be in our overheads. Part of it is efficiencies as well."

He also said the new Airbus and Bombardier partnership would not rule out further job losses.

Mr Ryan, who was appointed president of Aerostructures and Engineering Services last July, is Bombardier's highest paid employee here. Recent accounts showed he received a $535,000 (£404,000) remuneration package in 2017.

The same report revealed that Bombardier went from $76.3m (£57.6m) pre-tax profit in 2016 to a $52.9m (£40m) pre-tax loss last year.

Unite has said more than 1,000 jobs have already been cut by Bombardier in the last 18 months.

Ms Fitzgerald described Mr Ryan's comments as "shocking".

She said: "It's incredibly disrespectful to this workforce who have done so much in terms of productivity, but also to defend Bombardier in the face of the threat from Boeing.

"The reality is that we've had five years or more of cost-cutting, generally under the broad heading of efficiencies.

"Workers have gone to huge lengths to meet those targets. In the last year-and-a-half you've had over 1,000 redundancies from Bombardier.

"The attitude of the workforce now is that every time there's a good news story, it's quickly followed up by an attempt to drive back terms and conditions and make workers pay for whatever failure there is.

"When Bombardier was challenged and threatened last year (by higher US tariffs), it was the workforce of Belfast, in an international campaign, that came to its aid, along with Unite.

"If they alienate and push the workforce so far, there will be a reaction, there's no question about that.

"I think the company are making a mistake if they think the workforce in Belfast are just going to roll over."

The newly rebranded A220 featured prominently at the world's biggest air show yesterday in Farnborough. Despite announcing a series of orders for its larger aircraft series, there were no new takers confirmed for the A220.

The newly rebranded A220 featured prominently at the world's biggest air show yesterday in Farnborough. Despite announcing a series of orders for its larger aircraft series, there were no new takers confirmed for the A220.

But according to reports yesterday, another major order of 60 A220 jets could be confirmed later this week. The buyer is reportedly David Neeleman, the original founder of JetBlue, who is rumoured to be exploring the potential of establishing a new lost-cost airline.

Airbus also remained tight-lipped over speculation from credit raters Moody's that JetBlue enjoyed a massive discount on last week's order of 60 A220s.

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The Red Arrows flying past an Airbus 220 on display at the Farnborough Airshow