Harland and Wolff workers lock main gate in protest at imminent closure
Workers at the Harland and Wolff shipyard have locked themselves inside the main gate and have said they won't leave until a resolution is found to prevent the imminent closure of the shipyard.
On Monday, they hung a banner from one of the landmark cranes with the message 'Save our Shipyard' amid protests.
They're being supported by the unions Unite and GMB, who have said they understand workers’ frustration at the government’s failure to take action to preserve jobs and skills in Northern Ireland and secure the future of the yard.
Financial problems facing the Belfast shipyard have escalated since a potential sale to one buyer fell through.
It's understood Newry-based MJM Marine walked away from a proposed purchase of the business, which employs around 130 people.
Steel worker at the yard Joe Passmore said the workers never thought they would be put in this position.
"It was always assumed that the management and politicians would come up with a plan but so far they’ve failed, but we aren’t prepared to see this place fail when we know it can be viable and vibrant. The Government needs to nationalise this yard to not just save jobs but to create more," he said.
"Prime Minister Boris Johnson will this week make his first visit to Northern Ireland as PM, and Unite is again calling on his government to nationalise Harland and Wolff and cooperate with the workers to chart a way forward for the yard," said Unite’s Regional Coordinating Officer Susan Fitzgerald.
"I've no doubt that other workers, trade unionists and the broader community will flock to support these workers in their efforts to secure jobs and a future."
Staff member Paul Beattie praised what he described as a highly skilled and committed workforce.
"It's not good enough for anyone to shrug their shoulders and say we should walk out of here on Wednesday and never return. We are disgusted at the idea of companies sitting out there like vultures waiting for this place to go into insolvency so they can swoop in”.
GMB Regional Organiser Michael Mulholland said it would be ironic if one of Boris Johnson's first act as prime minister would be to allow Harland and Wolff to “sink by default”.
“Shipyards such as Harland and Wolff or Ferguson are vital to any country’s commercial and defence infrastructure. The protest by workers today is an indication of their determination not to allow this to happen”.
East Belfast MP Gavin Robinson said he understood the workers' concerns.
"I understand their concerns, I share their concerns," he said.
"The next number of days are critical for the shipyard and we are working for a solution so I understand entirely their frustration. They see time is running out, they see the clock running down, they want answers and, in fairness, they deserve them."
Asked if nationalisation was the solution, Mr Robinson replied: "I am not sure it is the immediate solution. It's not the one you would jump to first. There have been talks with intended bidders."
The DUP representative added: "There is a huge opportunity there to see reinvestment in shipbuilding and to see a renaissance in that industry. But we have an immediate difficulty this week, there are suggestions the company could go into administration on Wednesday and the unions are looking for help."
Belfast Telegraph Digital