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Government must save Harland & Wolff, insist unions

Unite’s Susan Fitzgerald
Unite’s Susan Fitzgerald

By Mark McConville

Unions have called for the UK government to step in at Harland & Wolff as the shipyard's fate could be sealed today.

Prospective buyers have been given a noon deadline to provide their indicative bids for the business as a going concern.

Unite and GMB have demanded the government renationalise the Belfast shipyard to "safeguard jobs and skills".

Susan Fitzgerald, Unite Regional Co-ordinating Officer, claimed that the government's failure to intervene had left the workforce "reliant" on bids coming in from the private sector.

"Serious bidders will base their offers on a genuine interest in taking the shipyard forward as a going concern with all the workers' jobs and skills intact but they need to be aware that if the bids do not reflect a genuine interest, this workforce is going nowhere," she said.

Ms Fitzgerald believes renationalisation remains the best outcome for Harland & Wolff.

She added: "The skills of this workforce could be directed at a wide range of productive sectors, including shipbuilding, renewable infrastructure and civil infrastructure.

"Investment in such opportunities offers the potential for thousands of highly-skilled jobs to be created here in Belfast in the just transition to a more sustainable economy."

Denise Walker, Senior Organiser for the GMB union, added that the government should follow the example of the Scottish Executive which recently committed to nationalising Ferguson Marine shipyard.

"There can be no excuses for the protracted failure to act similarly in Belfast," she said.

"The workforce expects all local political representatives to use any influence they have to compel the UK government to act."

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