Relief for workers as Bombardier wins trade dispute with United States

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Thousands of workers will be “breathing a huge sigh of relief” after aircraft manufacturer Bombardier won a major trade dispute with the United States, unions have said.

Politicians have also welcomed the ruling which will stop the US imposing 292% duties on the import of the firm’s jets to America.

The US International Trade Commission (ITC) said rival manufacturer Boeing did not suffer injury from Atlanta-based Delta Airlines’ order of Bombardier’s C Series passenger jets.

The decision could safeguard thousands of jobs in Belfast, where the C Series wings are produced.

Prime Minister Theresa May, who raised the issue with US president Donald Trump at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, said: “I welcome this decision, which is good news for British industry. Bombardier and its innovative workforce play a vital role in the Northern Ireland economy.”

File photo dated 08/07/17 of Prime Minister Theresa May holding talks with US President Donald Trump
Theresa May raised the Bombardier dispute with US president Donald Trump in talks on Thursday (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

She added: “I know Bombardier workers and their families have been waiting some time for this and I wish them well as we welcome this news together.

“The UK Government has been working tirelessly to safeguard Bombardier jobs and argued from the very start this case was wholly unjustified.”

DUP MP for East Belfast Gavin Robinson said it had been a “very difficult time” for the firm’s 4,000 worker in Northern Ireland who had “faced an uncertain future”, adding: “Bombardier’s greatest strength here in Belfast is the quality of those workers and the product they deliver.”

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar tweeted: “Very pleased that Bombardier won its case to stop US trade trade tariffs at the ITC. Many jobs in Belfast more secure tonight.”

Bombardier, which is headquartered in Canada, said in a statement: “Today’s decision is a victory for innovation, competition, and the rule of law. It is also a victory for US airlines and the US travelling public.

“The C Series is the most innovative and efficient new aircraft in a generation.

“Its development and production represent thousands of jobs in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom.”

It added: “With this matter behind us, we are moving full speed ahead with finalising our partnership with Airbus.

“Integration planning is going well and we look forward to delivering the C Series to the US market so that US airlines and the US flying public can enjoy the many benefits of this remarkable aircraft.”

Union leaders reacted with jubilation to the news but urged Bombardier to reiterate its commitment to protecting Northern Irish jobs.

Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner said: “Bombardier workers in Northern Ireland and throughout the supply chain in UK will be breathing a huge sigh of relief that the International Trade Commission has seen through Boeing’s baseless complaint… There can be no backsliding from the US government on this decision.”

Susan Fitzgerald, Unite regional officer for the union’s membership at Bombardier in Northern Ireland, dismissed efforts by the Prime Minister to resolve the dispute and said it was a victory for workers.

“When the story is told of this dispute it will be one of how, in the absence of a genuine effort by politicians and the UK Government, workers themselves had to take the fight on,” she said.

“Bombardier itself now must reiterate its commitment to the Northern Ireland workforce and end the outsourcing of jobs to low-cost centres.”

Shadow Northern Ireland secretary Owen Smith said: “This should be a signal to Theresa May that investing in manufacturing and supporting areas like Northern Ireland should be a priority for her Government.”

The ITC’s role was to determine whether the aircraft manufacture industry in America was damaged by imports that the US administration believed were being sold too cheaply.

Bombardier has received large sums from government administrations in the UK and Canada as part of the development of the C Series.

It had argued the Commerce Department’s tariff threat ignores long-standing business practices in the aerospace industry, including launch pricing and the financing of multibillion-dollar aircraft programmes.

But Boeing said its business was damaged because Bombardier received illegal government subsidies, dumping the C Series in the US through the cut-price 2016 Delta sale of 75 jets.

However, the ITC said: “100 to 150 seat large civil aircraft from Canada do not injure US industry.”

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