Bombardier to shed another 95 Belfast jobs as retailer M&S also wields the axe

Aerospace firm Bombardier plans to shed another 95 workers in Belfast
Gary McDonald Business Editor

UNIONS have reiterated calls for a "rescue strategy" for the north's ailing aerospace sector after Belfast aircraft wings maker Bombardier confirmed another 95 jobs losses.

It follows an announcement in June that 600 permanent and agency jobs would go as a result of what the company said was "extraordinary industry interruptions and challenges caused by Covid-19".

Bombardier revealed that it has completed a further review of its Belfast requirements for all its aircraft programmes.

"And in light of additional softening of market demand for the remainder of this year and through 2021, we regret to confirm that we must make a further downward adjustment to our workforce levels, with an additional 95 core employee jobs in Northern Ireland at risk of redundancy," it said in a statement.

The company is lodging a formal redundancy notice with the Department for the Economy, following which there will be a 30-day consultation period in a bid to mitigate the number of redundancies.

"We deeply regret the impact this will have on our workforce and their families, but it is essential we align our business with current market realities to ensure we have a sustainable long-term future," Bombardier said.

But Unite union regional secretary Jackie Pollock insisted the latest job losses flagged by Bombardier "are unnecessary", and that the focus instead should be on seeking sectoral support and resources for the sector.

And he warned employers in the wider aerospace sector and supply chain not to use the crisis to engage in “stealth shedding of jobs”.

Mr Pollock said: “Pre-Covid, Northern Ireland's aerospace cluster comprised 220 companies employing around 10,000 people, which means the region is home to over 8 per cent of the UK's aerospace companies and 10 per cent of all aerospace employment.

“The sector directly generates £1 billion in output annually and contributes more than £2 billion to Northern Ireland's entire manufacturing output.

“Workers in Bombardier are extremely concerned that, rather than focusing on exerting pressure on both Stormont and Westminster for increased supports for this critical industry, including extensions to the furlough scheme, employers are using the crisis as an excuse to reduce workforce numbers through a series of redundancies. Such stealth shedding of jobs will not be tolerated.”

He said politicians in both Stormont and Westminster must now focus on devising a rescue strategy for Northern Ireland combined with a UK-wide aerospace taskforce to ensure that, rather than being weakened, the sector is in pole position to drive a recovery post-Covid.

Meanwhile high street retail giant Marks & Spencer, which has 2,800 staff at 21 shops across the north, is also slashing its payroll.

It plans to cut 7,000 jobs in the UK - around a 10th of its workforce - over the next three months, mainly in head office and regional management level.

It hasn't given a geographical breakdown of where the jobs will go, but it's certain that Northern Ireland will feel its share of the pain as M&S laments what it says has been a material shift in trade, with in-store sales of clothing and home goods down by nearly a third.

M&S says it hopes there will be no compulsory redundancies, with the losses coming through retirements and voluntary departures.

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