By Eamon Quinn
The loss of almost 500 jobs at Canadian company Bombardier in Belfast will have a disproportionately hard effect on the North’s economy. It will also show up its over-reliance on public service employment at a time of great stress over the Brexit talks, say experts.
Bombardier says two weeks ago it was reviewing the future of 7% of its 67,500 jobs worldwide. That had given rise to fears over the jobs in the North where it employs directly around 4,000 people in making jet parts but the announcement nonetheless came as something of a bombshell. The programme that underpins many of the Belfast jobs in several facilities was rescued late last year when Europe’s Airbus maker bought out just over 50% in the C-Series passenger jet which Airbus has since renamed the A220.
Bombardier, formerly Short’s, is a long-standing employer in the east of the city and is now one of the few large private sector employers left in the North, in an economy that is hugely reliant on public sector contracts and public spending.
Graham Brownlow, economics lecturer in Queen’s Management School in Belfast, said that the “ripple effect” of the loss of “high-skilled, well paid, and high- productivity” jobs will hit sub-suppliers and have a disproportionate effect on the Northern economy.
John Whelan, managing partner at trade consultancy Linkage-Partnership, said the late George Quigley, former chairman of Bombardier and Ulster Bank, had been instrumental in getting sub-suppliers from south involved in the Bombardier supply chain.
He said that the aviation was “notoriously cyclical” and he hoped that in future years that Bombardier would again be recruiting.