The trade union representing workers at aviation manufacturer Bombardier has “cautiously” welcomed the Canadian company’s agreement to sell its Belfast manufacturing facility.
Bombardier has agreed to sell its wing-making factory in Belfast, and two other facilities, to US aerospace company Spirit AeroSystems for $500m (€450m) and the assumption of certain liabilities.
The Belfast operation makes wings for Airbus’s A220 jetliner, an aircraft that cash-strapped Bombardier developed before handing control to the European plane-maker last year.
The deal also covers a plant in Morocco and a maintenance, overhaul, and repair shop in Dallas.
The sale caps Bombardier’s exit from the airliner business, as chief executive Alain Bellemare refocuses the manufacturer on building private jets and trains.
For Spirit, buying the Belfast plant will expand its role as an Airbus supplier and lessen its dependence on Boeing and the 737-Max, which has been grounded for more than seven months, after two deadly crashes.
“This acquisition is in line with our growth strategy of increasing Airbus content, developing low-cost country footprint, and growing our aftermarket business,” said Spirit chief executive Tom Gentile.
The combined, acquired operations have more than 4,000 employees and expected 2019 revenue of about $1bn.
The GMB union said it is eager to speak to Spirit’s management to get assurances on jobs, terms and conditions, and pensions.
“We need reassurances on their intentions for the future of Belfast operations, and exploring opportunities to bring in new manufacturing, assembly, and engineering work,” said Alan Malcolm, GMB’s senior steward.
“After years of job losses and cost-cutting and devastating uncertainty, Bombardier’s skilled workers in Belfast finally have cause for hope,” he said.