30/11/2001

Unions increase pressure on Short Brothers

Union officials at Shorts have stepped up their efforts to stem the tide of imminent redundancies at the Belfast-base of the Canadian owned aerospace firm.

With the prospect of over 520 jobs under the axe by January 2002 at Bombardier Aerospace’s Short Brothers plant in Belfast, Union officials are continuing with talks in a bid to prevent the jobs cuts.

However, despite Bombardier having secured a contract for the construction and design of five new Bombardier Global 5000 business jets for TAG Aeronautics in the Middle East, it is understood this will make no difference to the jobs losses.

While Bombardier Aerospace hold that the job losses are directly attributable to a “reduced demand for products,” Union representatives from the Manufacturing Science Finance (MSF) Union claim that the proposed redundancies in Shorts were “without justification.”

In a letter to Mr Ryan, the representatives expressed concern that the downsizing was part of “strategic realignment of Bombardier’s aerospace operations” to the Canadian headquarters in Montreal.

MSF representatives Gary Faulkner and Noelle Boyle said the sale of Shorts Missile Systems completed in January this year, the projected redundancies, the opening of Mirabel plant in Montreal, and the exploration into the viability of manufacturing bases in China and Taiwan were all signs of Bombardier’s move away from Belfast.

Mr Faulkner and Ms Boyle said: “Our members are very sceptical that this crisis has been prompted by September 11. The books are full of orders worth around £20 billion. No orders have been lost. If these jobs go, particularly in Design Engineering, which seems to be now centralising in Montreal, it will be the first step in making Shorts a jobbing shop. In four or five years time – there won’t be a Shorts.”

However, Alec McRitchie, Director of PR at Shorts, said: “Before September 11 we had been in a major expansion mode. In May 2000 we launched a £80 million investment programme and we brought in around 1,500 temporary and sub contractor staff. After September 11, although we had no cancellations, we had a significant number of deferrals.

“As a result of the reduced demand for business aircraft we had to take steps to reduce the size of the company. Businesses worldwide are doing the same thing in order to survive the global downturn, and Bombardier is doing the same. We have to get back on track in order to protect the business and protect the remaining workforce.

“We have been working very closely with the unions in exploring measures to mitigate the number of compulsory redundancies. We at Shorts envisage there will be less than 2000 jobs cut in the end.”

A spokesman for the IDB said: “Sir Reg Empey along with Dr Reid are continuing to press the UK government for financial assistance. The company has assured the minister [Sir Reg Empey] that it has no intention of reducing its R&D capacity.” (AMcE)

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