'Light at end of the tunnel' for shipyard as agreed lay-offs go on
Administrators for Harland & Wolff have extended the temporary unpaid lay-off of workers in what a trade union said was a "light at the end of the tunnel" for the stricken shipyard.
Business advisers BDO said they had agreed with trade unions that the majority of the 123 staff would continue their temporary lay-off - a move which staves off redundancy.
Staff have been holding a sit-in at the yard as unions called for renationalisation, although the Government has said its difficulties are a commercial issue.
Potential buyers had until midday yesterday to make an offer but the deadline has now been extended. Administrators said they hoped expressions of interest could translate into a viable offer .
East Belfast MP Gavin Robinson said: "This is welcome news and is a demonstration of the ongoing work to secure a positive outcome for the shipyard."
Mr Robinson added he was talking to government about how it could help the shipyard and would also meet the administrator with his party leader Arlene Foster on Monday.
The DUP MP said: "I recognise the importance of Harland & Wolff to the people of east Belfast and to Northern Ireland as a whole. We are facing a very difficult situation without any 'magic wand' solution but we must continue to explore all options.
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"This work is more important than any grandstanding or rhetoric which doesn't have substance behind it. Such an approach does not actually help secure a future for the shipyard or, more importantly, for the workforce facing such an uncertain future."
BDO partners Michael Jennings and Brian Murphy said that a limited team of workers remains on the site.
"Since our appointment, there has been positive discussions with interested parties for the sale of the business as a going concern," they stated.
"It is hoped that these discussions may result in credible offers. In light of this, the administrators, in tandem with the unions and workforce, are intending to continue the unpaid temporary lay-off initiated on our appointment beyond today.
"The limited retained team are continuing to maintain the site and assist the administrators in carrying out their duties."
Denise Walker, senior organiser at trade union GMB, said: "At last there is some light at the end of the tunnel for these embattled Harland & Wolff workers. By underwriting the security of employment of this workforce, our unions have done what government had utterly failed to do."