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Bombardier: Jobs

Oral Answers to Questions — Economy – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:15 pm on 25th October 2016.

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Photo of Joanne Bunting Joanne Bunting DUP 3:15 pm, 25th October 2016

T6. Ms Bunting asked the Minister for the Economy, given that he will be aware of the worrying news about Bombardier in the East Belfast constituency, what discussions he has had with Bombardier and the unions that represent its workers. (AQT 411/16-21)

Photo of Simon Hamilton Simon Hamilton DUP

I share the Member's concerns about the news that emanated from Bombardier at the tail end of the week. That is on top of the announcement in February, and it is another blow to the dedicated workforce in Bombardier's Belfast and Northern Ireland operations.

As soon as the news broke, I was in contact with Michael Ryan, who is the head of Bombardier's Belfast operation, to discuss the details and to offer my full support to him and the Northern Ireland operations. I made it clear that I will do all that I can to fight to save as many jobs as possible in Northern Ireland.

Some detail has been revealed. Around two thirds of the 7,500 jobs will go in the transportation sector of the business, which will not affect Northern Ireland. There were encouraging comments in the Bombardier statement about ramping up employment with the CSeries and the Global 7000 project, which are two key projects in Belfast. Even though this is troubling news, there are potential opportunities — a bit like Fujitsu — for Northern Ireland.

Yesterday morning, I met the Unite union to discuss the issue in detail. I will stand and fight alongside the union to preserve as many of the jobs as possible in Northern Ireland. We all know that the work that is done in Bombardier in Belfast is of the highest quality. Whilst the company faces huge challenges now and moving forward, I firmly believe that Bombardier in Northern Ireland has a strong enough operation, with a good strong skills base, which can help the company to get out of its current difficulties.

Photo of Joanne Bunting Joanne Bunting DUP

Minister, in an earlier answer, you mentioned the Executive's dedicated strategy to double revenue from aerospace, defence, security and the space sector. In light of last week's announcement, and given East Belfast's strong history and skilled labour force in this area, might there be opportunities for redeployment in or expansion of those other companies in East Belfast?

Photo of Simon Hamilton Simon Hamilton DUP 3:30 pm, 25th October 2016

In spite of the news from Bombardier last week, I think that there are still huge opportunities for the aerospace, defence, security and space sector here in Northern Ireland. I mentioned the CSeries and the Global 7000 project. It is testament to the strong skills and dedication of the staff in Belfast and across Northern Ireland who work in Bombardier that they are involved in every major Bombardier project. I think that there are opportunities, and, last week, before the Bombardier news, we launched a new space strategy for Northern Ireland. I did not think that I would ever be in a position or a job where I would announce a space strategy in Northern Ireland. However, Thales, which is located in the Member's constituency — I had the pleasure of visiting it with her in the summer — is doing some fantastic work and is a real pioneer in the space sector. The new space propulsion centre that it recently opened offers huge opportunities for us to create more jobs and to do a lot more research and development in that sector here in Northern Ireland.