Northern Ireland

Bombardier workers in Northern Ireland reject pay offer

Bombardier Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Bombardier employs 5,500 people in Northern Ireland

Workers at Bombardier in Northern Ireland have rejected a pay offer as part of cuts to their Belfast operation.

They had been asked by the company to accept a two-year pay freeze and work for an extra hour every Friday.

Bombardier said it "very much" regretted that the offer it tabled aimed at cutting costs had not been accepted by the workforce.

The Canadian company employs 5,500 people in Northern Ireland.

It has said it is "in serious financial crisis" and workers have been told there is a "business necessity" to cut costs in Belfast by 20% by 2017.

Davy Thompson from the Unite union said they will be going back to the table to try and negotiate an improved offer.

He said 88% of Unite members at Bombardier Northern Ireland involved in the ballot had rejected the proposal.

"While we recognise that Bombardier faces exceptional cash-flow pressures, the membership of Unite has exercised their democratic right in relation to this offer," he added.

"We will now seek to engage with management in order to progress this matter further."

BBC News NI Business Editor John Campbell

It is understood that workers were most unhappy about changes to allowances that are paid for working shifts.

For some staff, that could have meant a significant drop in take home pay.

There was also a perception that workers in Bombardier's Canadian plants had been given a more generous deal.

In a statement, Bombardier said: "It is vital that we reduce our costs significantly if we are to sustain our business here and ultimately protect jobs in the long term.

"The company remains open to engaging with the trade unions in order to find a resolution.

"We will continue to look at measures to reduce our costs and improve our competitiveness."

On Wednesday, the manager of Bombardier's Northern Ireland operation said the Canadian bailout of the firm's CSeries project posed no threat to jobs in Belfast.

Michael Ryan made the comments in an interview with the Bloomberg financial news service.

Quid pro quo

In October, the Quebec state government pumped $1bn (£655m) into a partnership set up to complete the CSeries.

The wings for the CSeries are made in Northern Ireland.

"The quid pro quo was that final assembly and marketing would stay in Quebec, but that was all," Mr Ryan said.

The CSeries will employ at least 800 people in Belfast at full production, out of 5,500 in total.

Mr Ryan told Bloomberg that the Northern Ireland plant had skills in composite manufacturing that made it a world leader in wing production, safeguarding its status.

The development of the narrow-bodied CSeries passenger plane has placed a major strain on Bombardier's finances.

The project has been repeatedly delayed, is over-budget and orders have been slow.

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