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Wednesday, 26 September, 2001, 18:53 GMT 19:53 UK
Aerospace firm axes 900 jobs
Shorts makes the fuselage for the Bombardier regional jets
Shorts makes the fuselage for the regional jet
Up to 2,000 jobs could be lost at the Belfast aerospace company Shorts following an announcement made by its Canadian parent company, Bombardier.

In a statement on Wednesday, the firm said that about 900 jobs would go between now and the end of January 2002.

It is potentially the biggest single loss of jobs in Northern Ireland in decades.

The job cuts are believed to be largely as a result of the sharp downturn in air travel after the terrorist attacks on America.

The company has also warned that a further 1,100 jobs will go early next year unless there is an upturn in market conditions.


We will be asking some serious questions

Roger Lyons union representative

The job losses will be a combination of full time staff and short term workers who had been taken on to meet a peak in demand.

Vice president of Bombardier, Michael Ryan, said the company had planned to respond to a downturn in the market but the terrorist attacks in America had made matters worse.

"We're reflecting a change in our order base, a slowing down of it, and we need to make sure we are positioned for the future when things turn round again."

He said the terrorist attacks had reflected "greatly" on the company, particularly its regional jet market, the largest part of its business with Bombardier in Belfast.
Economy minister Sir Reg Empey
Sir Reg Empey has contacted Tony Blair

Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid, who discussed the job losses with Economy Minister Sir Reg Empey, said the news was a "bitter disappointment" for the workforce.

"The US attacks have had a devastating effect on the aerospace industry worldwide. Sadly Northern Ireland has now been caught up in the aftermath," he said.

Sir Reg said it was a "cruel and devastating blow" for the company.

He added: "I have, therefore, written today to the prime minister to express my concern about the situation facing Bombardier Aerospace and the local economy.

"And to request that the government responds quickly to the threat that is now developing to the airlines and aerospace industries across the United Kingdom."

'Damage'

Unions accused the factory's Bombardier of a "knee jerk reaction".

Roger Lyons, general secretary of the Manufacturing Science and Finance union, said: "We will be asking some serious questions about how the company got from a solid order book and good prospects to 2,000 job cuts in two short weeks."

Mr Lyons said unions were angry that the announcement was made without prior consultation with staff representatives.

"If today's announcement goes ahead it will seriously damage community relations and employment prospects in Northern Ireland, making government intervention imperative," he said.

Shares slide

The news is a huge blow for the company and its workforce of 6,500 at the east Belfast plant.

Bombardier shares have lost nearly half their value since the attacks on 11 September.

And there are fears that a slump in demand for air travel will severely hit orders for aircraft.

East Belfast MP Peter Robinson said the redundancies were "a massive blow to the economy of east Belfast in particular and Northern Ireland in general".

East Belfast MP Peter Robinson
Peter Robinson: Job losses are "massive blow" to economy

"This is part of a national problem linked to the economic effects of an international terrorist outrage," he said.

"As such it demands a response from the UK Government to complement whatever efforts can be made by the local administration in Northern Ireland."

Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble said he was "very concerned" at the job losses.

In July, the company announced an order for aircraft worth more than 1bn.

The order, which Bombardier Aerospace won for its regional jets, will mean extra work for the company's Belfast plant where the fuselage is made.

In June, at the Paris Air Show, the firm announced it had won an order for 50 regional jets - with options for another 30.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC NI's Sinead Rocks reports
"This announcement has come as a direct result of the attacks in America"
See also:

18 Jun 01 | Northern Ireland
Bombardier announces contracts
15 Jun 01 | Business
Paris set for air show
13 Jun 01 | Northern Ireland
Bombardier opens 9m facility
15 Jan 01 | Northern Ireland
NI firm to share plane order
23 Jul 00 | Northern Ireland
Order potential for Belfast firm
31 May 00 | Northern Ireland
Double jobs boost for Belfast
23 Jun 00 | Northern Ireland
Shorts picks up manufacturing award
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