Northern Ireland

How important is Bombardier to NI's economy?

Wings being built at the Belfast Bombardier plant Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Wings for the A220 planes are made at Bombardier's Belfast plant

Bombardier's Northern Ireland operations have been sold to Kansas-based Spirit AeroSystems, in a deal worth nearly £1bn.

It follows years of cuts and uncertainty among the firm's workforce in Northern Ireland.

BBC News NI looks at the company's background, and what the news could mean.

How important is Bombardier to the Northern Ireland economy?

Bombardier, and its predecessors Shorts, have been major employers in Northern Ireland for decades.

In 2017, it was estimated that the wages of the company's employees put £158m into the local economy annually.

How many people work for Bombardier in Northern Ireland?

The company employs about 3,600 people in plane-making activities at a number of sites in and around Belfast. When suppliers are included, it is estimated to impact on 12,000 jobs.

What does Bombardier do in Northern Ireland?

Wings for Bombardier's A220 planes are made at the Belfast plant.

The £520m facility was opened by former prime minister David Cameron in 2013.

Have there been job losses at Bombardier in recent years?

There have been several redundancy programmes at Bombardier in Northern Ireland since 215.

In November 2018, the company said it would cut 490 jobs in Belfast.

Earlier this year, unions called off an industrial action ballot when the company suspended compulsory redundancies.

Timeline: Bombardier job losses

May 2015: Firm announced a cut of at least 220 jobs due to a fall in demand for business jets.

February 2016: It said it would lose about 20% of its NI workforce, with 580 jobs to go in 2016 and 500 in 2017.

April 2016: Job cuts revised - from 580 to 630.

September 2017: Another 95 redundancies announced.

October 2017: Plan to cut another 280 jobs revealed.

November 2018: A further 490 job cuts announced, but then shelved.

What happens to Belfast's Bombardier operation now?

In May 2019, the company said it was going to sell its Northern Ireland operation as part of a reorganisation of the business.

At the time, Bombardier said it was consolidating all aerospace assets into a "single, streamlined and fully integrated business".

In October, it was announced that the US firm Spirit AeroSystems had bought its aerostructures business, in a deal worth nearly £1bn.

Spirit is paying $500m and taking on $700m of liabilities, including pension commitments.

The firm's chief executive Tom Gentile said the Belfast operation brings "world-class engineering expertise to Spirit".

"Belfast has developed an impressive position in business jet fuselage production, in addition to the world-acclaimed fully integrated A220 composite wing.

"This acquisition is in line with our growth strategy of increasing Airbus content, developing low-cost country footprint, and growing our aftermarket business."

The Belfast factory will also remain a major supplier to Bombardier's business jet programmes.

The company said: "Spirit will continue to supply structural aircraft components and spare parts to support the production and in-service fleet of Bombardier Aviation's Learjet, Challenger and Global families of aircraft."

As part of the deal, Bombardier will sell two aerostructure facilities - the Belfast plant and another in Morocco - along with a smaller repair plant in Dallas.

The Belfast firm doesn't just make parts for Bombardier, they also supply external customers such as Airbus.

In an interview last year, Bombardier Belfast director Michael Ryan said the Belfast factory would be capable of functioning as an outside supplier to Bombardier's business-jets division.

Following news of the sale, Mr Ryan said employees would be updated about the implications of the deal in due course.

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