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Titanic Belfast staff in plea as 75 jobs face axe

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Titanic Belfast’s income has dried up because of the pandemic

Titanic Belfast’s income has dried up because of the pandemic

Titanic Belfast’s income has dried up because of the pandemic

Representatives of workers at Titanic Belfast are to meet management later today for emergency talks on the popular tourist attraction's threat to make up to 75 employees redundant.

The plans to drastically reduce the number of staff were announced last week by chief executive Judith Owens in a 2,515-word statement to everyone on the payroll.

The Laganside complex - once voted the world's top tourist attraction - was forced to close on March 18 after the coronavirus lockdown was imposed.

It is due to reopen on August 1, although it will be a very different place.

The management have said physical distancing, the lack of travel opportunities into Northern Ireland plus customers' nervousness will contribute to a fall in visitor numbers to 30% of their previous annual footfall.

The majority of visitors after the reopening are expected to be local people but the home market has only ever made up 11% of business for Titanic Belfast and school trips are also unlikely to return there in the short-term.

The remarkable success of the attraction has been attributed to its soaring popularity with European and international visitors, but forecasts are that they will not return this year or next.

Despondent staff have contacted politicians to help them fight the redundancy moves at Titanic Belfast, whose bosses are said to not recognise trade unions.

Sources said the workforce had understood that there would be redundancies because of the impact of Covd-19, which the company said had dried up their income streams overnight and saw them using company reserves and Government support packages to cover liabilities.

The staff sources said, however, that their representatives will ask the management today why the Government's furlough scheme is not being extended.

They said the costs to the previously highly-profitable Titanic Belfast firm of keeping the scheme operative until the end of October would amount to between £75,000 and £100,000 at most.

And they said that the furlough extension until October would "at least give us the chance to look for other jobs".

The sources claimed that Titanic Belfast had been working on their new restructuring plans for months but had made no contact until a week ago with members of staff, who were given 48 hours to appoint representatives.

The company email broke down how the 75 jobs would be lost from the various departments at the popular attraction and said that the redundant staff could apply for five replacement jobs.

The staff sources said casual workers on zero hours contracts at Titanic Belfast will also be affected, taking the number of people from the centre's workforce seeking unemployment benefits to between 150 and 200.

Ms Owens said that the ongoing consultation process was there to ensure everything was considered before the final decision to remove the posts was made.

"Areas that we will discuss during consultation are voluntary redundancy; career breaks; part-time positions; job share arrangements, and indeed anything else that may be brought to the table during this time to mitigate against redundancy," she added.

In 2017/2018 some 841,563 people visited the tourist attraction.

The previous year the venue took home the prestigious World's Leading Tourism Attraction Award at the World Travel Awards.

Belfast Telegraph