Bombardier set to resume production in Belfast on May 4
AEROSPACE specialist Bombardier has confirmed it is targeting a return to work at its Belfast sites on May 4, with some operations potentially returning next week (April 27).
The Canadian-owned aerospace firm, which is due to become part of the Kansas-based Spirit Aerosystems group this year, said it had communicated the plan to staff after consulting with trade unions.
The company said it “may begin work progressively in some areas and functions” from April 27 to support crucial deliveries, particularly to external customers.
The Department for the Economy published a list of 'priority sectors' on Friday, but described it as advisory, stating that Northern Ireland companies would be able to make their own decisions.
Bombardier currently employs around 3,300 permanent staff in the north. It said workers will experience significant changes upon their return.
But the move has been heavily criticised by People Before Profit MLA Gerry Carroll, who accused the company of risking lives.
"I cannot see how supplying aircraft parts is an essential service during this crisis,” he said.
"Workers from Bombardier are already speaking out and have been in contact with me to raise concerns. Their lives should not be risked for selfish business interests.”
Bombardier ceased production in Belfast due to coronavirus safety concerns on March 24 and initially targeted April 20 for return.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the aerospace firm said: “The health and safety of our employees remain our top priority.
“During this furlough period, we have carried out a thorough review of all our facilities, in collaboration with our trade unions and the Health and Safety Executive, to put the best measures in place and ensure we meet the latest government social distancing and workplace health and safety guidelines. Indeed, we have already piloted some measures in certain areas.
“On their return, employees will experience quite significant changes in some working areas and practices to ensure their safety.
“They may also be required to work alternative patterns to facilitate safer working. Management will support employees to adapt to this new way of working, but we will of course continue to communicate with them regularly before their return.
“Where possible, we will also continue to maximise working-from-home opportunities.”
Bombardier’s operation in the north includes five sites. The key Belfast site is the base for the manufacture of composite wings for the Airbus A220.
US group Spirit Aero announced a £1 billion deal to acquire Bombardier's Northern Ireland operation at the end of October 2019