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50,000 Support Bombardier Petition

Bombardier Logo & High Speed Train

In order to reverse the previously made decision to award a £1.4 billion train contract to German manufacturer Siemens, over 50,000 people have shown their disappointment through a petition. This comes as many people urge the government to change its mind after Bombardier, which is based in Derby, announced that 1,400 jobs will have to be cut due to the loss of the contract. The petition was presented to the House of Commons by Labour Derby North MP Chris Williamson on Monday.

In June, the government gave the train contract, which will see new carriages built for the Thameslink rail route between Brighton and Bedford, to the German company. Following this, Bombardier announced that it would cut 983 temporary workers and 446 permanent staff from its workforce. A task force has started work to deal with the impact of the job losses on the economy.

The government has noted that European Union laws make it impossible for the decision to be reversed without an expensive legal bill. Although prime minister David Cameron says that they will look into the regulations to see if anything could be done in the future, he ruled out a U-turn on the decision.

Williamson told the House of Commons that feelings in Derby are running very high right now. He believes the citizens are hoping Cameron and his government will do what they did in 1971 when Rolls-Royce went bankrupt. At that time, the government did the right thing, he added.

Meanwhile, a major protest to oppose the government’s decision is set to go ahead on Saturday, July 23 in Derby. Demonstration organisers predict that thousands of people will participate. The protest is being led by the Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA), Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union, Unite the Union, and the GMB trade union. Supporters argue that up to 20,000 jobs at Bombardier and its supply chain are in danger.

Bombardier is ironically very busy right now, but most of its construction contracts are due to be completed shortly. The only work outstanding after this year is the construction of the remaining S-stock subsurface trains for London Underground. However, even this order will be finished by 2014, and then the Derby factory at Litchurch Lane will be out of work. Bombardier has started a 90-day consultation about the job losses.

Aside from this, a separate row was ignited when Colin Walton, the chief of Bombardier in the UK, was told not to join Cameron in South Africa during a trade visit. The prime minister was due to see the Gautrains running in South Africa during his trip, but these plans were abandoned as his trip was cut short due to the phone hacking scandal at News International. The withdrawal of Walton’s invitation to join Cameron sparked further criticism. Unite’s Mark Young said that the prime minister stabbed the British Bombardier workforce in the back, and it now looks like he’s avoiding the embarrassment of being seen with its chief.

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