January 10th: The UK and Ireland’s largest union, Unite warned the UK government that it was ‘raising the white flag’ without a fight to save Bombardier jobs today (Wednesday 10 January) as it said it was demanding an urgent meeting with the new secretary of state for Northern Ireland, Karen Bradley.
The warning came as Richard Harrington, a minister at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, told MPs on the Northern Ireland Affairs committee that the government expected Bombardier to lose a US trade case against Boeing over its C Series passenger jet.
The US International Trade Commission is due to make a final decision this month on whether to slap tariffs of 300 per cent on C Series jets, as recommended by the US Commerce Department in December last year.
Unite has written to the new secretary of state for Northern Ireland, Karen Bradley and the leaders of Northern Ireland’s two main political parties seeking urgent meetings and demanding that they turn rhetoric into tough action to save jobs at the Belfast plane maker.
Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner, who has responsibility for members in the aerospace sector said: “Comments by UK ministers that they expect Bombardier to lose the US trade case with Boeing are a disgrace and amount to them raising the white flag on UK jobs without a fight.
“A phone call to Donald Trump is all well and good, but where is the follow through on Theresa May’s tough words about Boeing and the tough action needed to secure Northern Ireland jobs?
“Bombardier workers and those in the supply chain whose livelihoods depend on the C Series will be dismayed that government ministers appear to be shrugging their shoulders over their futures.
“Bombardier is a major employer in Northern Ireland and a source for decent well paid jobs. When will the penny drop with our political leaders that these unwarranted tariffs will crush jobs and harm communities?
“Government ministers and Northern Ireland’s political leaders need to step up to the plate and start to follow through on their rhetoric with tough action to back Bombardier workers. They should be doing everything in their power and exploring every option available to secure jobs.”
Unite regional officer with responsibility for the workforce at Bombardier, Susan Fitzgerald, highlighted the scale of the threat posed by the upcoming decision by the US International Trade Commission: “The next few weeks are vitally important for the workforce at Bombardier. Should the US ITC decide to confirm the imposition of the punitive tariffs proposed by the Department of Commerce, it will take years to have them lifted through the arbitration of the World Trade Organisation. In the meantime, the damage will be done.”
Unite has written to the leaders of the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Féin as well as the incoming secretary of state Karen Bradley to seek urgent meetings on the threat to jobs.
Ms Fitzgerald indicated Unite would use these meetings to challenge politicians on the failure to defend jobs and skills in Bombardier: “This is the eleventh hour for the workforce – are either the local or UK government prepared to stand over the potential loss of 10 percent of Northern Ireland’s economy? What do they have to say to the 4,000 workers and the many thousands more in the supply chain who are likely to face a bleak future if these tariffs are confirmed? Are they actually going to allow this to happen on their watch? These are just some of the questions we will be demanding answers to from the political establishment both locally and in Westminster.
“In the last ten years, hundreds of billions of pounds in public money has been squandered bailing out the financial institutions and the elite. What steps is the government prepared to take to secure the livelihoods of workers threatened by these tariffs?
“Unite is demanding that, if necessary, exceptional measures be adopted to protect productive capacity, defend jobs and retain skills in Northern Ireland.”