Belfast Telegraph

Harland & Wolff workforce and unions praised for perseverance and strength

Tony Lloyd
Tony Lloyd
Simon Hamilton
Andy Allen
Ralph Hewitt

By Ralph Hewitt

The Harland & Wolff workforce and their unions have been praised for their resilience after it was saved from closure.

The shipyard entered administration in August following the collapse of its Norwegian parent company and the 79 workers, who did not take redundancy, will now keep their jobs.

UK-based energy company InfraStrata, which is believed to have spent £6m to buy the site, has plans to increase the workforce by several hundred over the next few years.

Following the workers' high-profile campaign to save their jobs after occupying the site for two months, East Belfast DUP MP Gavin Robinson highlighted their perseverance after yesterday's announcement. He said it "not only brings comfort for the workforce, who kept their dignified presence at the yard, but InfraStrata have also outlined ambitious plans for growth in the future".

"Immediately, they intend to engage in some of the traditional work streams of H&W but see synergy with the work associated with their Islandmagee Gas Storage Project," he added.

Alliance leader Naomi Long said she was pleased to support the workforce as they and the unions didn't give up hope of "saving a Northern Ireland institution".

"Harland & Wolff is an iconic yard, and the supply chain stretches through Northern Ireland," stated the MEP.

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"The challenge now shifts to securing suitable contracts to ensure there is a steady stream of work to sustain it in the long term," she added.

Ulster Unionist MLA Andy Allen described InfraStrata's takeover as a victory for the workers and their trade unions.

The East Belfast representative also said the company's job expansion plan was great news in the current economic climate.

"Today has brought some very welcome good news for east Belfast and the Harland & Wolff workforce and their families," said Mr Allen.

The Unite and GMB unions, which represent workers in Harland & Wolff, also paid their own tribute to the role of the workers in securing the victory.

Unite regional officer Susan Fitzgerald said: "From July 29, when workers were faced with the imminent collapse of the yard, they were determined not only to save their own jobs but to safeguard Northern Ireland's skillbase going forward. Their nine-week occupation will be remembered by future generations of workers as evidence of the power of collective action."

Senior GMB organiser Denise Walker added: "While politicians substituted sympathy for action, workers took control of the situation and of their workplace.

"In so doing they have ensured that Harland & Wolff will not only continue but will be in a position to expand and fulfil its potential as a lynchpin of Northern Ireland's economy."

Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith said he believes the Belfast shipyard has a promising future, while Labour's shadow secretary of state Tony Lloyd said the takeover was a tribute to the workers' strength and solidarity.

Belfast Chamber's chief executive Simon Hamilton said: "Belfast Chamber hopes that this heralds a new era for Harland & Wolff and that not only can staff be retained but that in time the workforce can be expanded and that, once again, ships are built at the yard."

Meanwhile, the Communist Party of Ireland added that the purchase of the site shows a need to expand the engineering base across the island of Ireland.

Belfast Telegraph