Bombardier’s Belfast workforce has welcomed a significant new contract, that is likely to deliver a production boost in the North. The order from JetBlue is for up to 120 Airbus A220 aircraft, formerly known as the C Series.
Trade unions say workers will now want to see an end to “cost-cutting measures” in Northern Ireland because of the major order.
Airbus, which last year acquired a majority stake in the C Series Aircraft Limited Partnership (CSALP) – the commercial entity that manufactures and sells the aircraft – yesterday relaunched Bombardier’s former CS100 and CS300 Series aircraft as the A220-100 and A220-300.
Bombardier’s Northern Ireland plants will continue to play a key role in the production of the aircraft because they are responsible for manufacturing the composite wings for the A220 aircraft family.
About 1,000 workers are directly employed on the aircraft programme in the North.
As part of the recently finalised CSALP agreement with Airbus, about 2,000 workers formerly under Bombardier’s control in Montreal and working directly on what was then the C Series aircraft programme will switch over to the new Airbus-led partnership.
But Bombardier’s Belfast workforce is part of the aerospace group’s aerostructures and engineering services and will remain a “supplier” to CSALP.
Jackie Pollock, regional secretary of the Unite trade union in Ireland, said the JetBlue order was a “tremendous fillip” for all of Bombardier’s workers in Northern Ireland.
“Given that the wings for this aircraft are manufactured in Belfast, this provides great assurance to the Bombardier workers in Northern Ireland. We should remember that only a few months ago this was a workforce who mobilised to successfully see off threatened punitive US tariffs by the Trump administration,” he said.
But Mr Pollock also believes new orders should remove the need for further cost-cutting by Bombardier in the North.
“There can be no justification for job losses in the context of a swelling order book. In particular we need to see the end of outsourcing. The skills base of their workforce in Northern Ireland is a critical factor in their success.
“Instead of any job losses and the further outsourcing of work, we need to see the growing order book for these aircraft translating into an expanding workforce in Northern Ireland,” Mr Pollock added.