US fund demands end to discrimination


A powerful US-based pension fund has challenged the owners of a Belfast aerospace manufacturer to provide ‘information on its hiring practices.’

The New York State Pension Fund, which owns $15.3m worth of stock in Spirit AeroSystems, contacted the company after it emerged that fewer than one in five workers at the firm, formerly known as Shorts, are Catholic.

The most recent figures show that 81 percent of the 2,000 workers at the former Bombardier-owned plant in east Belfast are Protestant and ‘other,’ compared to 19 percent Catholic.

The share of Catholics on the company’s payroll increased by only eight percent over the three decades since Bombardier bought Shorts in 1989.

The firm said it is ‘committed to workforce diversity’ but that its hiring practices are ‘based on the merit principle.’

One of the largest retirement funds in the US, the New York State Pension Fund’s total investments are valued at around $270 billion (£210bn).

In the latest development, New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has challenged Spirit over the religious breakdown of its workforce in Belfast.

A spokesperson for the fund said that Mr. DiNapoli and the fund ‘have long held the position that employment discrimination is unacceptable and can hurt long-term value for a company.’

‘Companies in Northern Ireland must take proactive measures to address under-representation and promote equality of opportunity for individuals from all religious backgrounds,’ the spokesperson said.

SDLP councillor Carl Whyte said he found the figures on the religious breakdown of the workforce at the plant ‘staggering.’

Sinn Féin North Belfast MP John Finucane said Spirit, like other employers, ‘needs to address underrepresentation and inequalities in the workplaces.’”

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