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Bombardier to cut 490 jobs from Northern Ireland operations

Edmund Heaphy
Ireland Correspondent
Job losses in Northern Ireland come after Bombardier said in November that it would cut 5,000 jobs globally. Pic: Reuters

Canadian aircraft manufacturer Bombardier has announced that it will cut 490 jobs from its operations in Northern Ireland.

The move, which will see its 4,000-strong workforce in Northern Ireland shrink by more than 10%, comes after the company announced earlier in November that it would be cutting up to 5,000 jobs globally as part of efforts to streamline its operations.

“We need to continue to cut costs and improve the efficiency of our operations to ensure our long-term competitiveness,” Bombardier said in a statement on Wednesday.

“We acknowledge the impact this will have on our workforce and their families and we continue to explore opportunities to help mitigate the number of compulsory redundancies,” it said.

Unite, a trade union that represents workers at the company, said the losses likely arose as a result of “outsourcing” and a “reduction of agency and contract workers.” Representatives from the union said they would be seeking an “urgent” meeting with global management at the company.

Criticising the move, Unite said the losses came “despite mounting profits” at the firm. In a statement, Unite’s regional secretary for Ireland, Jackie Pollock, said that the cuts were a “heavy blow for the local economy.”

“Unite has feared for some time that Bombardier might be bringing forward large-scale redundancies but this news exceeds our worst fears,” she said.

Susan Fitzgerald, a regional co-ordinating officer with the union, said the move was “more about satisfying the insatiable demands of the financial sector than about securing the skills base of its workforce.”

The company, which has factories in 28 countries, employs workers in four locations in Northern Ireland, including at a unit in Belfast, where wings for Airbus A220 aircraft are manufactured.

In addition to the 5,000 job cuts, which Bombardier said would result in annual savings of about $250m (£190m) by 2021, the company announced earlier this month that it had agreed to sell its turboprop-aircraft programme for around $300m, as well as its pilot-training division. The company has about 70,000 worldwide employees.

The company has been under pressure from shareholders in recent years, after its attempt to compete with market-leading aircraft from Boeing and Airbus ran into difficulties.

Though global sales at Bombardier declined by 5%, to $3.6bn, in the third quarter of 2018, pre-tax profits doubled to about $267m compared to the same period in 2017. It forecast that its 2019 revenue would jump by 10% to at least $18bn.

Bombardier’s Northern Ireland subsidiary lost $53m in 2017, however, in large part because of $16.2m in costs associated with 375 redundancies. It made a $56.4m profit in 2016.