Optimism that jobs will return to Bombardier

Bombardier has said that 580 jobs will be lost this year at its Belfast plant
Bombardier has said that 580 jobs will be lost this year at its Belfast plant

A former employee at Bombardier in Belfast and one of its leading union representatives is confident that the company will bounce back after announcing over 1000 redundancies this week.

The Canadian-owned aerospace manufacturer said on Wednesday that 580 jobs would be lost this year at its Belfast plant with a further 500 to go during 2017.

The company said the move was part of an overall efficiency drive which will see 7,000 staff being axed globally.

On Friday Jim Reid, who worked for almost 15 years at the company, told the News Letter the workforce had been expecting bad news - but not as bad as it turned out.

“Even in my time we knew with the amount of outlay the company was spending towards new contracts, it was not bringing back the necessary revenue,” said the former senior shop steward, who retired in 2014.

“I think the workforce knew something was going to give but not as drastically as it has turned out.”

He has been speaking to a range of colleagues this week in the wake of the devastating news.

“It is so sad and very disappointing that this has come about because everybody needs a job in the current economic climate. When you do work alongside these people you do get close to them.”

The company has said this year that 580 complimentary or ‘buffer’ workers and other indirect or non-hands on administrative staff will be laid off.

The total workforce in Northern Ireland is around 5,300, meaning some one in five workers will be expected to lose their position in the next year.

“In some ways they are relived the news has come out because before Christmas everyone knew bad news was on the horizon and the place was rife with rumours. The atmosphere was not nice. Morale was at an all time low.

“But the Aerospace Industry is very much about peaks and troughs. We hope it will not be too long until the work comes back in.”

Unite the union representative David Thompson said consultation begins next week on the redundancies.

He has seen previous mass lay-offs after the crash of Fokker in 1996 and the 911 terror attacks.

“But the company has always rebuilt and grown again after,” he said. “The mood in the workforce is subdued now but a lot of these workers have been there before.”

His union is helping with training in CVs, retirement planning, ICT, maths and English NVQs for those being made redundant from JTI Gallaher and Michelin in Ballymena and Bombardier, he said. The Department of Enterprise is also providing re-skilling training, he added.

Rob Slane, Head of Marketing at Economic Modelling Specialists International, says redundant Bombardier workers can use an online database to find what alternative careers their ‘transferable skills’ could open up to them.

A major government survey in the US has been compiled into a database which can match occupations with other occupations that have the most similar skill set, he told the News Letter. The data has not yet translated to Northern Ireland but workers from here can still log on to the Liverpool Career Coach and put in their current job title to find ideas of alternative career option ideas, he said.