Bombardier workers in Belfast are facing a bleak future. In a shock announcement last week, the US government stated its intention to impose a massive tariff of 219% on each Bombardier-made plane sold to American airlines.
Bombardier employs more than 4,000 people at its plant in east Belfast, about 1,000 of whom build wings and fuselage for the 75 C-Series jets being sold to US airline Delta as part of a $5.6bn (£4.2bn) deal.
This “America First” tariff imposed by Donald Trump is his first sizable defence of American industry against what he calls “unfair competition”.
Despite Theresa May’s sweet “special relationship” with Trump, it has provoked a serious crisis for a Tory government relying upon support from the Northern Ireland Democratic Unionist party for its survival.
Mrs May said she was “bitterly disappointed” with the decision of the US Department of Commerce to propose an interim tariff on Bombardier planes. She is not half as disappointed as the workers who are likely to be affected.
May has therefore hinted at retaliation with the US if it goes ahead, which casts doubt on a key plank of her Brexit strategy. The UK government has warned that this tariff imposition “could jeopardise” future Ministry of Defence contracts for its aircraft such as Apache helicopters.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn ridiculed the Tory Government, saying:
“If the special relationship means anything, it must mean that we can say to Washington: that way is the wrong way.
“That’s clearly what’s needed in the case of Bombardier where thousands of jobs are now at stake.
“A Prime Minister betting our economic future on a deregulated trade deal with the US might want to explain how 220% tariffs are going to boost our exports.”
Bombardier is an international corporation which is only interested in making money. Last year, it announced the cutting of another 7,500 jobs worldwide, raising fears for workers in its British aerospace and rail workforce. This was the second wave of job cuts announced by the Canadian manufacturer in a year.
Any threat to workers jobs should be met with the immediate occupation of workplaces. There must be no job losses. Work sharing with no loss of pay. The unions should call a 24-hour general strike in the North of Ireland and campaign for the nationalisation of the company, including its other branches, under workers’ control and management.
This crisis clearly shows that on the basis of capitalism no jobs are safe. Labour must come forward with an alternative socialist plan of production as opposed to the anarchy of capitalism.