Belfast Telegraph

Harland & Wolff workers hailed for taking a stand to save jobs as bidding war under way to buy Belfast shipyard

The rally at Harland & Wolff yesterday
The rally at Harland & Wolff yesterday

By Mark McConville

Harland and Wolff workers were justified in their "stand for job and skills", according to a trade union after credible bids came in for the business.

Trade unionists staged a rally at the shipyard gates yesterday as they praised the workers for not giving up on a business that had been "pronounced dead".

Harland & Wolff's workforce numbered around 125 when the company went into administration earlier this month after it ran out of money.

Their confidence in the future was proved correct by the bids the administrators had received, said Unite regional coordinating officer Susan Fitzgerald.

Matt Wrack of the Fire Brigades Union
Matt Wrack of the Fire Brigades Union

She added: "When Harland & Wolff went into administration ... only these workers and their unions took the bit between their teeth and moved to safeguard jobs and skills - not just for today but for the future.

"The bidders who are visiting the site and looking around offer not just a fix but the promise of a vibrant future of growing numbers of high-value added jobs.

"There is now a competition between commercial bidders to buy this shipyard whereas only weeks ago it was being pronounced dead. The reality is that we can secure a future where heavy industry can be brought back to Belfast."

Administrators BDO NI confirmed there had been a number of non-binding offers and other "interested parties who are in constructive discussions which may result in further offers".

A spokesperson said the unpaid temporary lay-off position had been extended until September 30 to "allow additional time to seek to complete a sale of the business".

They added: "The administrators and the limited retained team of workers at Harland & Wolff will continue to work with all interested parties and bidders as they undertake further financial and legal due diligence work in the coming weeks as every effort is made to secure a going concern sale."

A meeting of the Belfast manufacturing forum took place at City Hall at the same time as the rally and Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Julian Smith was quizzed by unions over the Government failure to act while the shipyard faced closure.

Speaking beforehand he said: "I'm quietly optimistic that there seems to be a number of people who can see the skills available or the opportunity that is there and the government will support in any way we can. I realise with workers that are still on contract but not being paid it is a very stressful time but I hope that if we move things on we can resolve that as quickly as possible."

At the forum, Unite regional coordinating officer Davy Thompson "demanded answers as to what supports will be offered to compensate and protect the more than 40,000 jobs which are at risk from a hard Tory no-deal Brexit".

He added: "The workers who have occupied the Harland & Wolff shipyard for four weeks now have demonstrated tremendous ambition for the future, not just for their own jobs but that of future generations."

Party group leaders on Belfast City Council also urged administrators "to secure a buyer on a going concern basis, to safeguard existing jobs and to provide growth and a sustainable future for manufacturing at the site".

Musician Tommy Sands
Musician Tommy Sands

Belfast Telegraph


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