Bombardier turbulence sees redundancies ramp up in Belfast

28 Oct 2016

Image: muratart/Shutterstock

Bombardier’s thirst for a reduced labour force has sped up for the third time this year, with over 1,000 workers in Belfast gone before the year is out.

A two-pronged restructuring of its workforce has been added to yet again, with Bombardier informing its Northern Ireland workforce that redundancies are picking up.

Some 1,080 workers, who were pencilled in for redundancy last February but were told it would be a two-year roll-out, have been informed the full programme will be completed before 2017.

It appears the bulk of these workers have already undergone the redundancy process, with Davy Thompson, Unite regional coordinating officer, saying “200 more workers will receive redundancy in the months to come”.


When that February news came through, it was for an overall reduction of 10pc of the Canadian airline and train manufacturer’s global workforce.

As if that wasn’t grim enough, last week it added a further wave of cuts to the to-do list, announcing a separate reduction of 7,500 jobs worldwide over the next three years.

Bombardier’s major restructuring is set to put significant strain on the Northern Ireland economy, with some 5,000 people employed by the company there.

The main work Bombardier does in Northern Ireland is the designing and manufacturing of airplane wings, which some felt would protect the workforce from cuts that are largely focused on the company’s train operations.

Bombardier’s Belfast management said: “This is a very difficult and challenging time for all our workforce and their families, but it is crucial to our long-term future that we continue to significantly reduce our costs and improve our competitiveness.

“We will continue to explore ways to mitigate the number of compulsory redundancies in relation to the completion of this workforce reduction.”

Amid these cuts, in which one wave was today bolstered with fresh impetus, Bombardier CEO Alain Bellemare said the company will simultaneously be “strategically hiring” for its growth areas: the CSeries family of narrow-body jets, and its Global 7000 business jet, which is expected to make its first flight next month.

This is something Alastair Hamilton, CEO of Invest Northern Ireland, honed in on last week as a potentially positive element of the company’s latest shift.

The 7,500 cuts announced last week have not been revealed, with Hamilton as yet unaware if they will hit Northern Ireland.

“We understand these are difficult decisions… but in the end, what we are going to be left with is a leaner, stronger organisation,” said Bellemare last week. “We are doing this because we want to save jobs in Canada.”

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic