Belfast Telegraph

Harland and Wolff crisis is 'a commercial issue' - UK government

The UK government has described the ongoing crisis at Belfast's Harland and Wolff shipyard as "ultimately a commercial issue".

A spokesperson said there is "every sympathy for the workers" and that the government will "do all it can" to support them.

It was initially expected the firm would enter into administration at 5pm on Wednesday if a buyer or rescue plan could not be put in place.

"We will work with partners in Northern Ireland and in Westminster to understand the situation and do all we can to support, but it is ultimately a commercial issue," the spokesperson said.

Workers continue their protest at the entrance to Harland and Wolff in Belfast where they say they plan to stay until the shipyard is privatised. Credit: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker.
Workers continue their protest at the entrance to Harland and Wolff in Belfast where they say they plan to stay until the shipyard is privatised. Credit: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker.
Pacemaker Press 30-07-2019: Workers continue their protest at the entrance to Halrland and Wolff in Belfast where they say they plan to stay until the shipyard is privatised. A rally took place today at lunch time. The UK government has said that the crisis at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast is "ultimately a commercial issue". Unions say the yard is at imminent risk of closure and have called for it to be nationalised. Picture By: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker.
Pacemaker Press 30-07-2019: Workers continue their protest at the entrance to Halrland and Wolff in Belfast where they say they plan to stay until the shipyard is privatised. A rally took place today at lunch time. The UK government has said that the crisis at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast is "ultimately a commercial issue". Unions say the yard is at imminent risk of closure and have called for it to be nationalised. Picture By: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker.
Pacemaker Press 30-07-2019: Workers continue their protest at the entrance to Halrland and Wolff in Belfast where they say they plan to stay until the shipyard is privatised. A rally took place today at lunch time. The UK government has said that the crisis at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast is "ultimately a commercial issue". Unions say the yard is at imminent risk of closure and have called for it to be nationalised. Picture By: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker.
Pacemaker Press 30-07-2019: Workers continue their protest at the entrance to Halrland and Wolff in Belfast where they say they plan to stay until the shipyard is privatised. A rally took place today at lunch time. The UK government has said that the crisis at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast is "ultimately a commercial issue". Unions say the yard is at imminent risk of closure and have called for it to be nationalised. Picture By: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker.
Pacemaker Press 30-07-2019: Workers continue their protest at the entrance to Halrland and Wolff in Belfast where they say they plan to stay until the shipyard is privatised. A rally took place today at lunch time. The UK government has said that the crisis at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast is "ultimately a commercial issue". Unions say the yard is at imminent risk of closure and have called for it to be nationalised. Picture By: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker.
Pacemaker Press 30-07-2019: Workers continue their protest at the entrance to Halrland and Wolff in Belfast where they say they plan to stay until the shipyard is privatised. A rally took place today at lunch time. The UK government has said that the crisis at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast is "ultimately a commercial issue". Unions say the yard is at imminent risk of closure and have called for it to be nationalised. Picture By: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker.
Pacemaker Press 30-07-2019: Workers continue their protest at the entrance to Halrland and Wolff in Belfast where they say they plan to stay until the shipyard is privatised. A rally took place today at lunch time. The UK government has said that the crisis at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast is "ultimately a commercial issue". Unions say the yard is at imminent risk of closure and have called for it to be nationalised. Picture By: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker.
Pacemaker Press 30-07-2019: Workers continue their protest at the entrance to Halrland and Wolff in Belfast where they say they plan to stay until the shipyard is privatised. A rally took place today at lunch time. The UK government has said that the crisis at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast is "ultimately a commercial issue". Unions say the yard is at imminent risk of closure and have called for it to be nationalised. Picture By: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker.
Pacemaker Press 30-07-2019: Workers continue their protest at the entrance to Halrland and Wolff in Belfast where they say they plan to stay until the shipyard is privatised. A rally took place today at lunch time. The UK government has said that the crisis at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast is "ultimately a commercial issue". Unions say the yard is at imminent risk of closure and have called for it to be nationalised. Picture By: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker.
Pacemaker Press 30-07-2019: Workers continue their protest at the entrance to Halrland and Wolff in Belfast where they say they plan to stay until the shipyard is privatised. A rally took place today at lunch time. The UK government has said that the crisis at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast is "ultimately a commercial issue". Unions say the yard is at imminent risk of closure and have called for it to be nationalised. Picture By: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker.
Pacemaker Press 30-07-2019: Workers continue their protest at the entrance to Halrland and Wolff in Belfast where they say they plan to stay until the shipyard is privatised. A rally took place today at lunch time. The UK government has said that the crisis at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast is "ultimately a commercial issue". Unions say the yard is at imminent risk of closure and have called for it to be nationalised. Picture By: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker.
Pacemaker Press 30-07-2019: Workers continue their protest at the entrance to Halrland and Wolff in Belfast where they say they plan to stay until the shipyard is privatised. A rally took place today at lunch time. The UK government has said that the crisis at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast is "ultimately a commercial issue". Unions say the yard is at imminent risk of closure and have called for it to be nationalised. Picture By: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker.
Pacemaker Press 30-07-2019: Workers continue their protest at the entrance to Halrland and Wolff in Belfast where they say they plan to stay until the shipyard is privatised. A rally took place today at lunch time. The UK government has said that the crisis at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast is "ultimately a commercial issue". Unions say the yard is at imminent risk of closure and have called for it to be nationalised. Picture By: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker.
Pacemaker Press 30-07-2019: Workers continue their protest at the entrance to Halrland and Wolff in Belfast where they say they plan to stay until the shipyard is privatised. A rally took place today at lunch time. The UK government has said that the crisis at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast is "ultimately a commercial issue". Unions say the yard is at imminent risk of closure and have called for it to be nationalised. Picture By: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker.
Pacemaker Press 30-07-2019: Workers continue their protest at the entrance to Halrland and Wolff in Belfast where they say they plan to stay until the shipyard is privatised. A rally took place today at lunch time. The UK government has said that the crisis at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast is "ultimately a commercial issue". Unions say the yard is at imminent risk of closure and have called for it to be nationalised. Picture By: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker.
Pacemaker Press 30-07-2019: Workers continue their protest at the entrance to Halrland and Wolff in Belfast where they say they plan to stay until the shipyard is privatised. A rally took place today at lunch time. The UK government has said that the crisis at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast is "ultimately a commercial issue". Unions say the yard is at imminent risk of closure and have called for it to be nationalised. Picture By: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker.
Pacemaker Press 30-07-2019: Workers continue their protest at the entrance to Halrland and Wolff in Belfast where they say they plan to stay until the shipyard is privatised. A rally took place today at lunch time. The UK government has said that the crisis at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast is "ultimately a commercial issue". Unions say the yard is at imminent risk of closure and have called for it to be nationalised. Picture By: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker.
Pacemaker Press 30-07-2019: Workers continue their protest at the entrance to Halrland and Wolff in Belfast where they say they plan to stay until the shipyard is privatised. A rally took place today at lunch time. The UK government has said that the crisis at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast is "ultimately a commercial issue". Unions say the yard is at imminent risk of closure and have called for it to be nationalised. Picture By: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker.
Pacemaker Press 30-07-2019: Workers continue their protest at the entrance to Halrland and Wolff in Belfast where they say they plan to stay until the shipyard is privatised. A rally took place today at lunch time. The UK government has said that the crisis at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast is "ultimately a commercial issue". Unions say the yard is at imminent risk of closure and have called for it to be nationalised. Picture By: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker.
Pacemaker Press 30-07-2019: Workers continue their protest at the entrance to Halrland and Wolff in Belfast where they say they plan to stay until the shipyard is privatised. A rally took place today at lunch time. The UK government has said that the crisis at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast is "ultimately a commercial issue". Unions say the yard is at imminent risk of closure and have called for it to be nationalised. Picture By: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker.
Pacemaker Press 30-07-2019: Workers continue their protest at the entrance to Halrland and Wolff in Belfast where they say they plan to stay until the shipyard is privatised. A rally took place today at lunch time. The UK government has said that the crisis at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast is "ultimately a commercial issue". Unions say the yard is at imminent risk of closure and have called for it to be nationalised. Picture By: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker.
Pacemaker Press 30-07-2019: Workers continue their protest at the entrance to Halrland and Wolff in Belfast where they say they plan to stay until the shipyard is privatised. A rally took place today at lunch time. The UK government has said that the crisis at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast is "ultimately a commercial issue". Unions say the yard is at imminent risk of closure and have called for it to be nationalised. Picture By: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker.

"The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Julian Smith, has had conversations with Invest NI and ministers across government as a matter of urgency."

Paul Beattie told a crowd of workers and trade union activists on Tuesday, however, that senior management informed him that administrators are now expected to arrive on Monday.

"The pressure we have brought to bear, from yesterday until today, not only has it focused the minds of the politicians, and we have told them what we want them to do, it has also sharpened the pencils of the senior management team," he said.

"The administrators have been staved off until Monday. Hopefully that will give us a bit more breathing space until we make representations to Boris Johnson."

It's understood the new Prime Minister will visit Northern Ireland this week, where the situation at Harland and Wolff is expected to be high on the agenda.

Employees started a protest at the site on Monday, locking the gates of the iconic shipyard and demanding the government nationalise the business to prevent a shutdown.

Workers continue their protest at the entrance to Harland and Wolff in Belfast where they say they plan to stay until the shipyard is privatised. Credit: Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Workers continue their protest at the entrance to Harland and Wolff in Belfast where they say they plan to stay until the shipyard is privatised. Credit: Jonathan Porter/PressEye

The demonstration continued overnight and trade unions have been lobbying politicians to intervene and save the 132 jobs and future of the firm.

DUP MP Gavin Robinson said he "understands and shares the concerns" of the workers and is trying to find a solution.

"The next number of days are critical for the ship yard and we are working towards a solution so I understand entirely their frustrations," he told the BBC.

"There have been talks with intended bidders- the people have a vision for this shipyard, the people want to see a renaissance in shipbuilding in Belfast."

Michael Mulholland of the trade union GMB, which represents many of the workers, said action needs to be taken.

“Our members have been protesting for almost 24 hours straight – such is the strength of feeling for this famous yard," he said.

“Harland and Wolff is a huge part of the UK’s shipbuilding heritage – it’s a piece of history and can’t be allowed to go the way of so many other shipyards in recent years.

“GMB demands Harland and Wolff is renationalised, securing hundreds of jobs and Belfast’s place as a global centre of shipbuilding.”

Joe Passmore, an employee at Harland and Wolff, said the workforce has been "truly humbled" by the support they have received from the trade union movement.

Workers continue their protest at the entrance to Harland and Wolff in Belfast where they say they plan to stay until the shipyard is privatised. Credit: Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Workers continue their protest at the entrance to Harland and Wolff in Belfast where they say they plan to stay until the shipyard is privatised. Credit: Jonathan Porter/PressEye

"We are determined to have our voices heard. We are determined to show what the power of solidarity and the trade union movement are capable of when we are backed into a corner," he said.

"In the worst case, if we do have to go down, we will ensure that every business in the country will think twice before they try to ignore the welfare of their workers and the strength that we have when we stand as one."

The Harland and Wolff yard, which helped define the city's industrial past, has been up for sale amid serious financial problems at its Norwegian parent company.

The yard employs around 130 people and works on wind energy and marine engineering projects.

Its two huge cranes dominate the east Belfast skyline but its peak period as an employment powerhouse was during the Second World War.

The last ship built there was the Anvil Point in 2003.

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