Double blow for manufacturing sector with 500 job losses announced

Aerospace company Bombardier has announced a further 280 redundancies at its plant in east Belfast. Picture By Matt Bohill
Gareth McKeown

THE Northern Ireland manufacturing sector has suffered a devastating double blow, with as many as 500 jobs set to be lost at two prominent companies.

Aerospace giant Bombardier has confirmed it is to cut "around 280" jobs in east Belfast, while trade union Unite has reported more than 220 jobs are set to be lost at oil and gas supply firm Schlumberger through the closure of its Newtownabbey plant.

In a company statement yesterday Bombardier said the staff reductions are in addition to 7,500 job cuts worldwide announced last October.

"We continue to review our manpower requirements in Belfast and regret to confirm that we must reduce our workforce levels by around 280."

Those impacted will be functional support personnel, including managers and professional staff and Bombardier has not ruled out further redundancies in the future.

"We acknowledge the impact this will have on our workforce and their families and we continue to explore opportunities to help mitigate the number of compulsory redundancies However, we need to continue to cut costs and improve the efficiency of our operations to help ensure our long-term competitiveness," the company added.

The job losses come just a month after management announced 95 redundancies and a week after European firm Airbus acquired a majority stake in Bombardier’s C-Series aircraft programme, lifting some of the pressure on around 1,000 workers at Queen’s Island who work on making wings for the C-Series.

Unite regional coordinating officer, Davy Thompson called on Bombardier to review the latest round of job losses.

"We do not agree with the case being made against retention of functional staff onsite. This decision is premature given the potential for jobs growth in the C Series and opportunities for additional employment on site with existing legacy products."

On the same day it emerged oil and gas firm Schlumberger is set to close its Newtownabbey plant at the loss of more than 220 jobs.

The multinational has had a base in Northern Ireland for almost 60 years, but Unite said management has now taken the decision to close the Newtownabbey site. It is understood staff were informed yesterday and then sent home from work.

Unite regional industrial officer, Susie Fitzgerald described the development as "devastating news" for staff and a "hammer blow" for the north's manufacturing sector.

“We are concerned that the company’s global corporate management are attempting to use the downturn in the oil and gas sector as cover to further outsource jobs to low cost alternative locations. If so we will be rejecting their logic."

"Our objective remains to avoid closure and to save the maximum number of jobs possible”, Ms Fitzgerald added.

In the wake of the job losses in Belfast and Newtownabbey Mr Thompson urged the UK government to intervene and bring forward an effective industrial strategy for Northern Ireland.

“Northern Ireland’s productivity now lags at the very bottom of the league across all UK regions and yet we have the skills and capacity to compete at the highest levels globally in manufacturing.

“Again and again, we have seen jobs being outsourced and lost as companies whose success was built by Northern Ireland workers are allowed to be taken over by large corporations who then outsource jobs abroad to lower costs and maximise profits for global shareholders.

“We cannot afford to see this trend continuing as we risk the same de-industrialisation as has scarred entire regions of the UK."

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