Inquiry told tariffs against Bombardier threaten thousands of jobs

Unite union says it is vitally important the UK government moves quickly to defend jobs

 The Bombardier factory in Belfast. Proposed US trade tariffs against Bombardier’s C Series aircraft threaten the future of 4,000 jobs at the plant

The Bombardier factory in Belfast. Proposed US trade tariffs against Bombardier’s C Series aircraft threaten the future of 4,000 jobs at the plant

 

Proposed US trade tariffs against Bombardier’s C Series aircraft threaten not just the future of 4,000 jobs at its Belfast plant but also thousands of other jobs across Bombardier’s 800 suppliers in Ireland and the UK, trade union leaders have warned.

Representatives from the Unite trade told a new House of Commons inquiry in London that the US department of commerce decision to impose trade tariffs totalling 300 per cent on every Bombardier C Series jet sold in the US was not simply an issue for the North.

On the first day of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee inquiry into Bombardier and the impact of potential US tariffs, Jimmy Kelly, Ireland secretary for Unite, said it was vitally important that the UK government moved quickly to defend jobs that were under serious threat from what he called “the protectionist Trump administration”.

Mr Kelly told the inquiry there was no guarantee that a new tie-up between Airbus and Bombardier would remove the threat of the tariffs that was currently hanging over Bombardier’s Northern Ireland plant.

Majority stake

Airbus has acquired a majority stake in the C Series aircraft programme, and has said it will assemble the final aircraft for US customers on US soil in Alabama – which some believe might leave the C Series exempt from import tariffs.

However, Mr Kelly said: “The threat to jobs remains as there is as yet no indication that the tariffs will be lifted. Since more than 60 per cent of Bombardier’s Northern Ireland’s workforce will depend on C Series production for their employment in three years’ time, there are genuine concerns that tariffs on this scale, on the largest market in the world, will prejudice the future of Bombardier in Northern Ireland.”

Bombardier is currently axing 270 jobs in the North. Mr Kelly told the inquiry that Unite has been advised to go to the US, which it plans to later this month, and rally support for Bombardier’s Northern Ireland workers where ever it can, but particularly in “Washington and on Capitol Hill”.

Political leaders

George Burnside, a Unite senior lay representative, questioned why the North’s political leaders were currently not out doing the same thing.

“The main parties should be in Washington on Capitol Hill rapping doors. We feel let down that none of the DUP or Sinn Féin have gone to Washington. They seem more interested in language and flags, and everything else is going down the tubes. It’s a serious situation.”

Mr Burnside said he has worked for Bombardier for 27 years, and in recent years has had to witness thousands of job cuts at its Northern Ireland factory. He believed it was vital that everyone came together to protect the remaining jobs. “There’s nothing else out there in Northern Ireland,” he warned.