Posted on Thursday 2 May 2019 by John Mulgrew

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Bombardier’s Belfast base – which employs around 4,000 staff – is being put up for sale, it has emerged.

The Canadian-owned firm is selling off its entire aerostructures business, which also includes a major operation in Morocco.

It’s the latest major development for the firm here in the last few years, following a swathe of significant job losses, selling off a majority stake in its passenger jet series and trade wars.

“Our sites in Belfast and Morocco have seen a significant increase in work from other global customers in recent years,” a spokesman said.

“We are recognised as a global leader in aerostructures, with unique end-to-end capabilities – through design and development, testing and manufacture, to after-market support. Bombardier is committed to finding the right buyer – one that will operate responsibly and help us achieve our full growth potential.

“We understand that this announcement may cause concern among our employees, but we will be working closely with them and our unions as matters progress, and through any future transition period to a new owner.”

Bombardier says there are “no new workforce announcements as a result of this decision, but our management team will continue to drive ongoing transformation initiatives to improve productivity and increase our competitiveness, to give more weight to our unique value proposition to potential buyers”.

The sale of the aerostructures business comes as Bombardier has announced what it calls its new Bombardier Aviation business unit, which will be led by David Coleal.

“We are very excited to announce the strategic formation of Bombardier Aviation,” Alain Bellemare, president and chief executive officer, said.

“It is the right next step in our transformation. The consolidation will simplify and better focus our organisation on our leading brands, Global, Challenger, Learjet and the CRJ. It will also allow us to better support our customers and generate value for shareholders.

“With our clear vision for the future of Bombardier Aviation, we will focus our aerostructures activities around our core capabilities in Montreal, Mexico and our newly acquired Global 7500 wing operations in Texas. Collectively, these facilities provide Bombardier with all the skills, technologies and capabilities to design, produce and service the current and next generation of aircraft.”

ADS Chief Executive Paul Everitt said:“Bombardier’s Belfast business has a tremendous workforce and capabilities that are an important part of a successful aerospace sector in Northern Ireland and the wider UK. It plays a critical role in supplying components for major aircraft models, including wings for Airbus’s technologically advanced A220 and structures for the successful A320neo.

"The announcement made today will be unsettling for the workforce in the short-term and it will be important for Government, industry and the trades unions to work together to help secure the long-term ownership of the business.The skills, experience and capability in the Belfast operation means there is every reason to be confident of a positive long-term future for the business and its supply chain in Northern Ireland.”

Jackie Pollock, Unite regional secretary in Ireland, said: "Today’s announcement will come as a shock to the entire Bombardier workforce in Northern Ireland. Many of the company’s 3,600 employees will be left asking what this will mean for their long-term future of their jobs.

"Unite will be seeking assurances from Bombardier and the government around this process. It doesn’t matter whose name is above the gate – what matters is that we safeguard jobs and skills in this critical industry. The UK government must stand ready to ensure the retention of jobs and skills at these sites, Bombardier is simply too important to the Northern Ireland economy to allow anything less.

"Bombardier workers in Northern Ireland are among the most highly-skilled workers in the sector globally – we produce a world class product here with a world-class workforce. Whoever the buyer is there’s an undeniable case for investment to not only sustain but expand production and employment into the future.”

POLITICAL REACTION

Naomi Long, Alliance

“Obviously this is an extremely unsettling development for workers in Bombardier, who now face a period of uncertainty, and my thoughts are with them,” said Mrs Long.

“However, the company has diversified in recent years and has attracted a significant amount of non-Bombardier work.

“The focus now has to be on finding a buyer committed to maintaining and developing manufacturing on the Belfast site to secure not just Bombardier jobs but those reliant on being part of the company’s supply chain across Northern Ireland.

“My colleague Chris Lyttle MLA and I are seeking an urgent meeting with management in Belfast to discuss the economic implications of these developments. As Northern Ireland’s largest private sector employer and manufacturing company, we must do everything possible to ensure that a suitable buyer is found."

Steve Aiken, Ulster Unionist Party

“The news today that Bombardier Inc is putting up for sale their aerostructures division is a matter of considerable concern, not least for the 4,000 employees and their families.

“There has been no doubt that Bombardier has struggled in recent years particularly around the development of the C series. But, having successfully tied up with the globally leading Airbus company, it was hoped that Bombardier’s future within the aerospace sector was assured.

“It must be hoped that all the aerostructures divisions here in Northern Ireland can be retained by any new purchaser and that manufacturing and jobs can be maintained.

“Bombardier has had a proud history both in aerospace and in Northern Ireland, but we must ensure that the aerospace industry in Northern Ireland continues and thrives into the future."

 

Michelle O'Neill, Sinn Fein

“This is hugely concerning for the affected workers and the wider manufacturing industry and economy in the north.

“Bombardier has faced a number of difficulties over recent years and there have been several major job loss announcements over that time.

“The economic uncertainty caused by Brexit has also impacted severely on the manufacturing sector and wider economy here.

“However, the scale of today’s announcement will still come as a shock to those affected and to our local economy.

“I have spoken this morning to Michael Ryan and Sinn Féin has already been in contact with representatives of Unite The Union and workers representatives."

 

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