Outlook bleak but Bombardier workers look on bright side

The scene at Bombardier yesterday as employees left the east Belfast headquarters with the cameras of the UK media trained on them
The scene at Bombardier yesterday as employees left the east Belfast headquarters with the cameras of the UK media trained on them

The mood at Bombardier’s east Belfast base was, somewhat surprisingly, not as bleak as the weather yesterday afternoon.

As workers left the aerospace firm’s Belfast headquarters amid pouring rain – and with a number of TV cameras from the UK media focused on them – many declined the opportunity to comment on the latest blow to the company.

Bombardier employee Neil Connolly said workers were used to uncertainty

Bombardier employee Neil Connolly said workers were used to uncertainty

However, some employees who were willing to share their thoughts said the preliminary 220% tariff imposed on Bombardier by the US Department of Commerce was not a major talking point in the factory, one going as far as suggesting the mood with workers was a positive one.

An east Belfast woman who did not wish to be named said uncertainty had become “part of the job” for the 4,000 workers that Canadian company Bombardier employs in Northern Ireland.

“All you can do is put your head down and get on with it,” said the employee of more than 30 years experience.

“I know a few people are applying for redundancies because of all the stories about the uncertainty.

“I can see how it could affect people, especially with Christmas on the horizon.”

A statement from Bombardier described the proposed duty – effectively tripling the cost of the C-Series in the US – as “divorced from reality”.

Paul Anderson, who works in Bombardier’s procurement department, said there had been little mention of the preliminary ruling in his department yesterday.

He said: “It was mentioned briefly at our team meeting and that was about it.

“Although there’s been a lot of media interest it’s not something that’s talked about here all day.”

Mr Anderson, who has been with the company for around eight years, said: “The mood isn’t as down as people would think.

“We’re a positive lot.

“I’m confident that come February (when the final decision is made) everything will be fixed.”

US-based airline Delta, which has placed a large order with Bombardier for its C-Series jets, has announced that it intends to fight the ruling with Bombardier.

Bombardier is due to deliver the first aircraft to the Atlanta-based firm in 2018.

Mr Anderson said: “It’s good to know that Delta are standing by us on this.”

A young woman from west Belfast who has been a Bombardier employee for 10 years said that she had not given the current situation much thought.

“I can honestly say I didn’t talk to anyone about it today,” she said.

“I’m not going to worry about it until February.

“There’s nothing any of us can do to change things between now and then.

“We’ll just have to wait and see until then.”

Another long-serving employee said enough was enough and he was planning to apply for redundancy.

“I think the time has come to finally take the money and run,” he said.

Earlier this month the company announced 100 redundancies, however the jobs were not related to the trade dispute with Boeing it said.

Last year Bombardier had said it was cutting 1,000 jobs in Northern Ireland.

Neil Connolly, who has been with the company for 17 years, said it wasn’t the first time Bombardier workers had faced uncertainty, and it would not be the last.

He said: “If the ruling stays as is, it will have a massive effect, not just for Bombardier workers, but there will be a knock-on effect for suppliers.

“This is only the start, there’s a long way to go. We have until February until the final decision and then there will be court appeals if necessary.

“For now, there’s not much we can do but keep on working away.”