Aircraft builders at Bomardier in Northern Ireland gave a massive thumbs down to a management-proposed pay freeze yesterday.
On top of the two-year moratorium on wage rises, the Canadian aircraft manufacturer had demanded that staff work an extra hour on Fridays over the same period! Talk about blood out of a stone.
The company, which employs around 5,500 people at its east Belfast factory, claimed it had to cut costs by 20 per cent by 2017.
After a massive 88 per cent of manufacturing union Unite’s members at Bombardier voted against the pay freeze, the union vowed to seek “urgent discussions” with the firm.
“The current offer is a serious attack on wages, hours, overtime pay, shift premiums, and the pension scheme, which equates to hundreds of pounds per week to workers,” said Unite Belfast Shorts branch secretary Joe Bowers.
“Significantly, Bombardier has ruled out any guarantee of job security even for the period of the agreement.”
Mr Bowers blamed Bombardier’s financial woes on its CSeries airliner (we picture the CSeries CS100 Flight Test Vehicle), an attempt to compete with Boeing and Airbus against the advice of the union and many industry voices.
The CSeries aircraft has suffered many delays. The planes were due to be in service by now but have sustained a series of setbacks while orders for the aircraft have been lower than expected.
The manufacturer was forced to seek a bailout from the Quebec government in a move which the group insisted would not affect its Belfast workforce.
A spokeswoman for Bombardier said: "The company very much regrets that the offer it tabled aimed at cutting costs and contributing to the competitiveness of our Northern Ireland operations was not accepted by the workforce.
"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."
Bombardier bought the famous Belfast aircraft manufacturer Short Brothers for £30 million in 1989. Bombardier is Northern Ireland's biggest manufacturer and one of the largest employers with 5,500 workers.
Mr Bowers pointed out that the Canadian firm has since more than recouped its investment by selling off many Shorts subsidiaries and assets, including Belfast City Airport for £35 million in 2003.
In recent years Bombardier has received billions of pounds in subsidies from the regional governments of Northern Ireland and Quebec.