Harland and Wolff to cut up to sixty jobs in Belfast
Unions call for intervention to ensure skills retention for future
Harland and Wolff, the Northern Ireland firm which specialises in offshore construction, is to cut up to sixty staff from its operation in Belfast.
It is thought management will attempt to achieve the reduction through seeking volunteers for redundancy.
Michael Mulholland, regional organiser spokesperson for the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering said the announcement "reflects the recent decline in the company’s order books".
Mr Mulholland said: "This is the latest bad news story for manufacturing in Belfast and Northern Ireland and follows hot on the heels of a large-scale redundancy announcement at Bombardier. It reflects the continuing crisis in the sector.
"Management will attempt to achieve this reduction through seeking volunteers among the workforce in the first instance. Both the GMB and Unite will engage fully with the employer to try and minimise the impact on our members and will work together to offer necessary employment support and advice services to affected members."
He added: "Our unions are seeking assurances from the DETI and DEL Ministers that they will mandate relevant agencies to put in place a package for those affected, perhaps involving upskilling, which will mean that these skilled workers are available for the company, as and when they expand their workforce with an improving order book.”
The firm stopped shipbuilding in 2003 and now specialises in repair and refurbishment of vessels ands oil rigs.
According to its last accounts the company, which has a core workforce of just under 200, made a £9m operating profit off a £55m turnover in 2014.
The company is famous for having built ships for White Star Line including the ill-fated Titanic.
East Belfast Ulster Unionist representatives Andy Allen MLA and councillor Sonia Copeland said action is needed to prevent further job losses in the manufacturing industry.
Andy Allen MLA said: "Harland and Wolff has been at the heart of East Belfast for a very long time so this news will be devastating to the whole community. This news coming so soon after the announcement of the Bombardier job losses will leave people wondering what’s next.
"I will be making representations to the DETI Minister to see what he plans to do not only to turn the tide of job losses in the manufacturing industry, but also to help those who will be affected by this announcement. "
Councillor Sonia Copeland said: "Something has to be done to stem the job losses from the manufacturing industry. These announcements don’t just affect the workers, they also affect the local economy and the morale of the community that these industries were once the backbone of."