Workers at Bombardier in Belfast have rejected management proposals to freeze their pay as part of cost-saving measures.
As well as a two-year pay freeze, the Canadian aircraft manufacturer had proposed that staff work an extra hour on Fridays.
The company, which employs around 5,500 people at its east Belfast factory, had stressed a business necessity of cutting costs by 20 per cent by 2017.
A union representing many of the employees said the staff had expressed their “democratic right” in rejecting the proposals, but the firm said it very much regretted the outcome.
Despite huge investment in its Belfast division, principally in production facilities for the hi-tech composite wings for the new CSeries aircraft, the fact that the Montreal-based business has recently been bailed out by the Quebec government has triggered concerns for the future of the business.
In October, the administration pumped $1bn (£655m) into a partnership set up to complete the CSeries.
Aside from the union move, Bombardier vice-president and manager in Belfast, Michael Ryan, told the Bloomberg financial news service that the Northern Ireland operation remained secure following the investment.The wings for the CSeries are made in Northern Ireland.
“The quid pro quo was that final assembly and marketing would stay in Quebec, but that was all,” Mr Ryan said.
Nevertheless the overwhelming rejection of the proposals by 88 per cent of Unite workers in the firm is not encouraging set against the pressure for savings.
“Unite negotiators were asked to ballot on a pay offer from management which would seek cuts to workers’ terms and conditions and leave them dependent on a performance-related bonus for an improvement in their incomes,” said Unite regional co-ordinating officer Davy Thompson.
“The union did not try to influence its members in regard to the offer but our representatives in the workforce presented it to them on the grounds outlined by management.”
Recognising that Bombardier faced exceptional cash-flow pressures, he said the membership had “exercised their democratic right in relation to this offer. We will now seek to engage with management in order to progress this matter further.”
A spokeswoman for Bombardier said: “The company very much regrets that the offer it tabled aimed at cutting costs and contributing to the competitiveness of our Northern Ireland operations was not accepted by the workforce.
“It is vital that we reduce our costs significantly if we are to sustain our business here and ultimately protect jobs in the long term. The company remains open to engaging with the trade unions in order to find a resolution.”