Belfast Telegraph

We’ll make a success of reborn Harland and Wolff, say staff


What a difference: yesterday
What a difference: yesterday

By Christopher Leebody

The mood of victorious Harland & Wolff workers was buoyant as they marched through the shipyard gates after the sale of the closure-threatened business.

Steel worker and Unite union member Joe Passmore led his "jovial" colleagues back inside yesterday morning, following a £6m buyout by London-based energy firm InfraStrata.

Helping to co-ordinate a worker-led, round-the-clock occupation campaign outside the gates of the historic site for the past nine weeks, an emotional Mr Passmore said he had experienced a wide range of emotions while standing in front of the now open entrance.

"I have to admit to being a nervous wreck this morning," he said.

"It wasn't about this - it wasn't about 'out here'. It was about when we got to the other side of those gates; when we got together in our private meeting and spelled out where we needed to go from here.

"I have to admit that once we started talking, everybody aired their views and we are now all as one. We are all going forward.

"We've had nine weeks to bring all those issues together and we are an incredibly united workforce now.

"An incredibly united workforce like that will make this place a real success.

"There were quite a few people I never expected who were very close to tears.

"It is such a relief because we have all put so much into it.

A month ago
A month ago

"I'm absolutely delighted. I was never going to walk away from here.

"I couldn't let this shipyard go and there's a lot of people like me.

"We lost people along the way. There are some people who financially just couldn't do it.

"There were people close to pension age, but those pensioners, they came here every day to help us even though some of them had retired; even though some took redundancy they were here. It's a community. It has gelled a fantastic workforce".

Speaking of a bright future following the sale, Mr Passmore is confident the relationship between the workers and the new owners is "a really good fit".

"They were speaking our language right from the start, so we have a lot of faith. The company are a very ambitious company ... this will lead to a great future for Harland & Wolff," he said.

Following the victory of the workers, Unite union official Susan Fitzgerald described the mood among the workers as "one of vindication".

"The last nine weeks was what delivered this victory. It is a real testament to the women and men in Harland & Wolff," she said. "They feel a sense that they have won something very important. It is very impressive.

"What Harland & Wolff shows is the only thing that stood between them and their jobs being taken was their resilience and solidarity. I am in awe of the workers of Harland & Wolff and their families."

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