Belfast Telegraph

Harland and Wolff: Unions hold talks over extension of lay-offs at shipyard

Delay in full redundancies at H&W could be stretched

Samson and Goliath, the giant cranes in Harland & Wolff shipyard
Samson and Goliath, the giant cranes in Harland & Wolff shipyard
Margaret Canning

By Margaret Canning

Trade union GMB has said it's in talks with the administrators of Harland & Wolff about extending the temporary lay-off of staff beyond Friday, it has emerged.

GMB and the Unite union last week reached agreement with business advisers BDO, who were appointed administrators to the stricken shipyard last week, that workers would be laid-off temporarily in a move to stave off redundancy.

Unions have called for renationalisation of the firm, which was previously in government ownership in the 1980s and 1990s.

Yesterday Michael Mulholland of the GMB told the Belfast Telegraph the union is now in talks with the administrators about extending the lay-off, though no agreement has yet been reached.

The administrators said on Friday that they were in talks with interested parties/potential bidders.

It's understood there have been three expressions of interest received for the yard.

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Newry-based MJM Group is thought to have made an offer for the assets of the business before the administration but is no longer actively in talks with the administrators.

And Irish Ferries is also thought to have made an enquiry about the ship repair element of Harland & Wolff, with company directors travelling to Dublin for talks.

However, it is not thought to have made a formal offer.

Meanwhile, the last civilian shipyard in Scotland, Ferguson Marine in Port Glasgow, is facing administration after it suffered losses as a result of a row over a contract with a government-owned ferry company.

The shipyard employs 350 people currently carrying out work on two ferries for Cal Mac.

Scotland's Finance Minister Derek Mackay - a minister in Scotland's devolved administration - believed public ownership is an option though efforts to find a commercial solution had been made.

"The Scottish government has now indicated to all relevant parties that we are ready and willing to take Ferguson Marine into public ownership and deliver the ferries to secure the continued employment of the workforce in the yard," he said.

But economist John Simpson said he did not believe that renationalisation would be an option for Harland & Wolff, even if NI did have a devolved government.

"My take is that the NI Executive would share the view that this is a commercial issue," he said.

But Sir John Parker, who was chief executive and chairman of Harland & Wolff for a decade until 1993, said: "The tragedy is, regardless of the willingness of governments to get involved, Scotland's devolved administration is working and Northern Ireland's is not at work.

"I don't think the economic prospects differ too much. Ferguson's appears to have work but has major contractual issues.

"Both yards would appear to be suffering from a big slowdown in investment decisions across a range of sectors given the uncertainty injected via Brexit."

Belfast Telegraph

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