Page last updated at 14:26 GMT, Thursday, 2 April 2009 15:26 UK

Manufacturing 'loses 2% of staff'

Bombardier Adria CRJ900
Bombardier has warned of falling sales

Northern Ireland's manufacturing industry has lost 2% of its workforce in four days, the employment minister has said.

Sir Reg Empey's comments followed the loss of almost 1,000 jobs in Belfast at aerospace company Bombardier on Thursday.

Almost 400 other industrial jobs have been lost in NI this week.

"Clearly it is the worst loss of jobs in a week in manufacturing in a long time," he said.

"About 1,400 jobs that we know of are going - it is a huge slice of the manufacturing workforce, about 2%, since Monday.

"By any standards it is a very bad week."

At Bombardier Aerospace a total of 975 staff are losing their jobs, with 310 permanent staff and all 665 agency staff being made redundant its factories.

A company statement said it was cutting aircraft production rates and reducing manpower at all its sites because of an "unprecedented recession".

"We deeply regret the impact this will have on those affected and their families," it said.

"Unfortunately, however, the force of this global recession is unprecedented, market conditions have worsened, and Bombardier is revising downwards most of its aircraft production rates and implementing measures to meet challenges facing the whole aviation industry.

All we as an executive can do is prepare those who have lost their jobs for new employment
Peter Robinson
First Minister

"We need to do all we can to protect the business now so that when we come out of the recession we will be in a strong position."

The company said it expects the redundancies among its permanent staff to be achieved "through voluntary means".

Bombardier's main plant is at Queen's Island in east Belfast. It also has factories in Newtownabbey, Newtownards and Dunmurry.

BBC NI's business correspondent Kevin Magee said: "While the company has had recent success with its new C series jets, other parts of its business have been hit by falling orders.

"After these cuts take effect, the remaining workforce at Bombardier across its sites in Northern Ireland will sit at around 5,000."

'Powerless'

It has been a terrible week for Northern Ireland's manufacturing sector.

Ninety-five workers were made redundant at the engineering firm FG Wilson on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, 210 people were laid off as car parts company Visteon closed its Belfast plant.

On Monday, 87 jobs went at Nortel's Newtownabbey plant.

Michael Ryan, Vice President of Bombardier, has called the job cuts 'unfortunate'

First Minister Peter Robinson, who is also the East Belfast MP, said Northern Ireland was "reeling from a massive blow" after a week of job losses.

"All we as an executive can do is prepare those who have lost their jobs for new employment, to get out there and encourage investment in Northern Ireland," he said.

"We have to recognise the limitations that exist for a devolved administration.

"Unfortunately Bombardier will feel just as powerless as we do."

David McMurray of the Unite trade union said it was one of the "bleakest weeks in manufacturing since the Thatcher years".

He said financial support from the government was needed.

"Bombardier are still financing the C series. We need government money to go into Bombardier to reduce the number of redundancies."

Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster said: "The Executive stands ready to provide substantial financial assistance to Bombardier for its C Series project, on which the market signs are encouraging."

In February, Bombardier said it would be cutting 300 of its 900 agency staff employed in Belfast in response to a decline in global sales.

At that time, the company said that permanent staff would not be affected.

Canadian-owned Bombardier produces planes for a worldwide market.

The firm specialises in small and medium-sized aircraft for regional markets and is best known for its Learjet executive plane.

It is also making cuts at its plants in Canada, the United States and Mexico.



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