Harland and Wolff workers hold firm as administrators are called in

The GMB has vowed to carry on the fight to save the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast despite administrators being called in.

The deadline to find a buyer for the world famous ‘Titanic’ yard passed at 5pm yesterday, and administrators BDO were called in. But workers, who have been occupying the site since last Monday, say they are going nowhere.

BDO are expected to apply for a court injunction today.

GMB organiser Michael Mulholland said: “Harland and Wolff has been betrayed by Boris Johnson and the Conservatives’ complete lack of a plan to protect our manufacturing jobs. The future of Harland and Wolff is more than a ‘commercial issue’ that the Prime Minister can stand by and do nothing about.

“But we will not give up on this famous shipyard. The occupation will continue – and our battle will continue.”

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell yesterday visited the shipyard to call on the government to intervene to protect the workforce, saying: “It wouldn’t take much for Boris Johnson to say today, we will save these jobs. Do not stand on the sidelines. Intervene.”

Unite Regional Coordinating Officer Susan Fitzgerald said: “The hands-off approach adopted to date by the Tory government and their supporters in the DUP amounts to economic vandalism.

“During our conference call with the Secretary of State today, we will be stressing that, If Harland and Wolff is allowed to close, the taxpayer will pick up the bill in terms of lost taxes and benefit costs, while Northern Ireland’s economy will lose vital skills and expertise as we head into the uncertain waters of Brexit.

Michael Mulholland added: “It is not too late for the government to, in the words of Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell at today’s mass meeting, step in and ‘nationalise to stabilise’, providing the space for development of a sustainable rescue plan.  In order to ensure that a window for survival remains open, unions have been talking to the administrators and exploring ways of avoiding redundancy notices being issued to the workers.”

Unite assistant general secretary for manufacturing Steve Turner said: “Boris Johnson is on the verge of betraying Northern Ireland workers, their families and communities reliant on skilled, well paid jobs in addition to a proud heritage of shipbuilding, maintenance and repair at Harland and Wolff.

“Standing back and allowing the shipyard to fall into administration to be picked over for scrap value by vultures looking to make a quick buck is in nobody’s interest. As time runs out, Boris Johnson must step in, put Harland and Wolff into the hands of the official receiver and underwrite day-to-day running costs in the same way that successfully happened with British Steel.

“This will give a loyal customer base the confidence to place orders and the company the ability to sign contracts which it currently doesn’t have. We know work is in the pipeline and a secure future can be provided to the yard until a responsible buyer is found avoiding the devastation of closure and forcing skilled workers onto the dole.

“Staving off administration is not just in the economic and social interest of Northern Ireland, but in the strategic defence interests of the UK. Harland and Wolff has the largest dry dock in the UK and the only one big enough to fit our new Royal Navy aircraft carriers when they need to come in for maintenance and repairs.

“Additionally, the shipyard works with BAE on the Dreadnought submarine programme, has an important part to play in the building of the Royal Navy’s new Type 31e Frigates and is central to the UK consortium’s bid to build the navy’s fleet solid support ships.

“There is no reason why Harland and Wolff cannot have a bright future. All this proud workforce needs is a temporary boost from government and a commitment from UK ministers that they will back UK shipbuilding by block building the new fleet solid support ships in yards across the UK.”

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