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Belfast's HMS Caroline staff given a jobs reprieve in 'eleventh hour' ruling


Museum: HMS Caroline is berthed at Belfast’s Titanic Quarter

Museum: HMS Caroline is berthed at Belfast’s Titanic Quarter

Museum: HMS Caroline is berthed at Belfast’s Titanic Quarter

Staff who work at Belfast's HMS Caroline have been offered a temporary reprieve from the threat of redundancy, it has emerged.

It was feared that 10 jobs could go at the HMS Caroline floating museum in Belfast as the government's Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme runs out.

However, the National Museum of the Royal Navy (NMRN) said yesterday that it has come to a joint understanding with the Department for Economy which means it will continue to operate the ship until the end of the year.

This means that the roles identified as being at risk of redundancy at the end of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme tomorrow are no longer considered at risk.

Despite the agreement, NMRN has expressed regret at the eleventh-hour development.

A spokesman said: "The museum, which announced the start of its consultation period on the September 21, 2020, recognises that this is a late in the day decision and regrets the stress and uncertainty that staff have experienced over this difficult time.

"However, negotiation was required around a number of clauses in the agreement to ensure that the staff, ship and museum were protected from financial uncertainty.

"Whilst the long-term operation of the ship is still yet to be confirmed, this interim agreement means that staff will remain employed until December 31, 2020, when it is hoped that a decision about the future operation of the ship will be in place.

"The museum is relieved that it has been able to protect its incredible team at HMS Caroline from redundancy for the next eight weeks and wants to assure them that it continues to work exhaustively with the Department for Economy for a longer term solution that means that visitors will be able to once again climb on board this breath-taking 100 year old survivor, the only surviving ship from the Battle of Jutland."

HMS Caroline is berthed in Alexandra Dock in the heart of Belfast's historic Titanic Quarter and is the last survivor of the Battle of Jutland in 1916, the largest naval battle ever fought.

Its future has been uncertain due to a funding row between NMRN and the Department for Economy.

A spokeswoman from the Department for Economy said: "NMRN agreed to provide an oversight and maintenance role during the period of temporary closure and the Department confirmed that it would meet agreed associated costs.

"The Minister also agreed to cover the salary costs of HMSC staff until December 31, 2020, following the cessation of the Job Retention Scheme on October 31, 2020.

"The Department and NMRN are in ongoing discussions on legal issues pertaining to this.

"During the period of temporary closure, the Department has also been working to develop options for the long-term future of the attraction."

In August it was claimed that HMS Caroline could be towed back to Portsmouth "for its own protection" within the next year.

Dr Tim Schadla-Hall, the chairman of the HMS Caroline Preservation Society, warned the First World War ship was at risk in a letter to Economy Minister Diane Dodds.

He said that with the vessel to remain closed until next year because of the coronavirus pandemic, its future as a tourist attraction was in doubt.

Belfast Telegraph