Diversity in the workplace is not just important for moral reasons; it can also
help to create real business success, a senior manager from one of Northern
Ireland’s biggest employers told a forum of roughly 650 businessmen and women in
Tel Aviv on Tuesday.
Speaking at the second annual Equal Employment
Opportunities Commission (EEOC) conference, Rory Galway, the senior manager for
equal opportunities and technical training at Bombardier Aerospace in Belfast,
said that policies of equality and fairness adopted by businesses would always
be supported by a broad spectrum of people in society, and that “it is always
better to have a representative workforce.”
“If they sell products, then
it is better to be representative, but even if they do not, then businesses can
benefit from diversity, especially if the country is under international
pressure,” Galway said in an interview with The Jerusalem Post
presentation. “It is about recognizing what the prizes are and where they come
Galway, who has been involved in encouraging equal employment
opportunities for the minority Catholic population in Belfast since the mid-
1970s, admitted that “it does get frustrating, but I never feel like giving
“Northern Ireland is not a perfect society, but we have made some
progress, and that is what keeps us going,” added Galway, who has worked at
Bombardier since 1991.
Employing some 5,000 locals in Northern Ireland,
Bombardier has been striving to increase its Catholic workforce to reflect that
population’s representation in Belfast, explained Galway.
While the six
counties that make up Northern Ireland are divided equally between Protestants
and Catholics, the Catholic community of Belfast is less than 30 percent of its
overall population. Within the Bombardier workforce, Catholics make up roughly
16%, a large increase over the 5% of Catholics at the height of the Northern
Ireland conflict back in the late 1970s.
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“It is not where we would like
to be,” said Galway. “However, despite the fact that our overall workforce has
been reduced from 7,000 employees to 5,000, we are still striving to increase
the Catholic representation.”
Despite the progress that has been made in
all areas of life in Northern Ireland since the signing of the Good Friday peace
agreement between Catholic and Protestant factions in 1998, Galway acknowledges
that deep divides still exist there.
“In a divided society such as ours,
those divisions have of course translated into the workplace, but we have taken
many steps to address them, such as working with trade unions to ensure that
people can come to work free from external symbols, and if there are instances
of the conflict playing out in the workplace, then we take immediate action,” he
“All our employees are well aware that what goes on outside
should not be brought into the workplace,” Galway went on, adding that managers
were provided ongoing training to address such issues.
appearance at the one-day conference is part of a partnership program under the
auspices of the European Union to bring together EU and non- EU nations for
mutual cooperation and social development.
The EEOC successfully bid for
the partnership in 2009 and has spent the last year learning from the
experiences of the Northern Ireland Equality Commission (NIEC), which has built
a successful model for equal employment opportunities there.
Collins, chief executive of the NIEC, who oversees the joint project from
Northern Ireland, commended the reach of this year’s conference, which was
attended by more than 650 local employers and supported by the Industry, Trade
and Labor Ministry, as well as by the EU and the UK.
“There are no real
short-term solutions to identifying the inequalities and to tackling them, but
it is important that, like we have in Northern Ireland, we must never give up,”
Collins told the Post.
“The situation is always more complicated in
regions where there are conflicts, but working to address inequality in the
workplace and elsewhere in society is what helps to pave the way for a peace
agreement,” she added.
Since its inception in 2008, Israel’s EEOC has
seen an increase in the number of complaints against discriminatory practices in
the workplace or by employers, and has received clear signals from businesses
that they’d like have more diversity among their workers.
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