Belfast Bombardier job concerns as jet programme sold to Mitsubishi Heavy Industries

Belfast Bombardier staff work on the jet programme's fuselage
Belfast Bombardier staff work on the jet programme's fuselage
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There are further concerns about the future of large numbers of staff at Northern Ireland’s largest manufacturer Bombardier, after it announced plans to sell its regional jet programme.

The Canadian manufacturing giant confirmed on Tuesday that it plans to sell the programme to Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, headquartered in Japan, for $550 million (£328 million).

It comes a month after the plane maker said it is to sell its aerostructures business.

In the new deal, MHI will acquire Bombardier’s CRJ operations (which stands for Canadian Regional Jet).

Bombardier said there are “approximately 300 Northern Ireland employees supporting the CRJ centre fuselage programme”.

The bulk of them are based at its plant on Queen’s Island in the Titanic Quarter of east Belfast.

A Bombardier spokeswoman said: “Following today’s announcement regarding the definitive agreement for Mitsubishi Heavy Industries to acquire the Bombardier CRJ programme, we are reviewing what impact this may have on our sites in Northern Ireland and Morocco as suppliers to the programme, and will evaluate opportunities in other programmes to mitigate any potential impact on our workforce.”

They stressed that the CRJ programme was being sold, not any physical sites in Northern Ireland.

Alain Bellemare, Bombardier’s president and chief executive, said: “We are confident that MHI’s acquisition of the programme is the best solution for airline customers, employees and shareholders.

“We are committed to ensuring a smooth and orderly transition.”

The deal is expected to close next year.

Unite the Union said that the move “plunges the Bombardier workforce in Northern Ireland into uncertainty and concern”.

Its regional co-ordinating officer Susan Fitzgerald called for “a cast-iron commitment to the livelihoods of those employed in CRJ production”, and suggested the government be “proactive in defence of these vital jobs and skills”.