Uncertainty again faces 3,600 jobs at Bombardier in Belfast after the Canadian planemaker said it had put up for sale facilities across the city.
The planemaker has a long-established manufacturing plant in east Belfast, once known as Short’s, as well as three other sites and has long been a mainstay of manufacturing in the North.
Despite shedding jobs in recent months, it is still one of the region’s largest private sector employers and its supply chain involves contracts across Ireland.
But with the outcome of Brexit for the North still far from certain, potential buyers for the Belfast facilities remains uncertain.
The Belfast plants faced a huge threat in 2017 but Bombardier’s agreement with European planemaker Airbus to a stake of just over 50% in its troubled C-Series jet programme, now renamed the A220, had appeared to lift a huge cloud over the Belfast facilities.
Belfast, which makes the wings for the jet then faced a new threat after the A220 was caught up in the trade dispute between the US and the EU.
In an earnings statement from Montreal, Bombardier said it was seeking to sell its Belfast and Morocco aero operations, which is described as “businesses with tremendous capabilities”.
“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,” it said.
Bombardier said: “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.
“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,” it said. Trade unions said that they would seek assurances from Bombardier over its plans.
Our members, and their families, have already suffered a terrible year. After months of uncertainty following Trump’s tariffs, they were then hit with news of 490 job losses, and now this.
"Bombardier jobs are absolutely vital to Northern Ireland’s economy and it’s time workers were treated with the respect they deserve,” said GMB union organiser Michael Mulholland.
Jackie Pollock, Unite’s regional secretary in Ireland, said that Unite “will be seeking assurances from Bombardier and the government around this process”.
UK Business Secretary Greg Clark said: “Bombardier’s commitment to Short Brothers has transformed the business, housing the state-of-art A220 wing factory, formerly the C-Series, with a healthy order book of over 500,” he said. “The Belfast plant, its expertise and its highly skilled and dedicated staff will be highly sought after. The government will work with potential buyers to take this successful and ambitious business forward.”