Harland and Wolff workers still employed and there is immediate work available, says union

Harland and Wolff workers continue their protest at the Belfast shipyard regarding the future of the company. ''Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Harland and Wolff workers continue their protest at the Belfast shipyard regarding the future of the company. ''Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
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Harland and Wolff workers are still legally employed and there is immediate work available for them if government will provide a few weeks of stability, a trade union has said.

Susan Fitzgerald from trade union Unite was speaking after a 40 minute long conference call with Secretary of State Julian Smith.

“He began the conversation almost speaking about the workforce in the past tense,” she told Good Morning Ulster. “We clarified that the situation was that the workforce continue to be employed, albeit not paid, from today on.

“We told the Secretary of State that we felt he had been badly informed by Department of Economy officials and by Invest NI on a number of fronts.”

“So we used the bulk of that conversation to clarify inaccuracies on the viability of the company, around the idea that a loan had been offered etc.

“We did ask the Secretary of State could we leave the phone call, go back up to the occupation [of the site] and tell workers there that he planned to fight for their jobs. He didn’t think that was a good idea.”

However he did agree to come back with clarification on a number of points on Thursday, she added.

Unions asked for the government to speed up MoD contracts which are in the pipeline, but more immediately to “take the shipyard back into public ownership”.

If the government does not like the term nationalisation, she said, there were a number of initiatives the government used to support British Steel which could be used as a blueprint.

The reason there is no order book is because the parent company went bankrupt, so they were not able to bid for work in recent months, she said.

If there is some stability the company could be in the running for a £70m contract in the coming weeks, she said, if the company is underwritten.

“There is immediate work that could come in. We itemised that... engineering, ship repair, renewables..”.

“All those could be quickly gone after if there was a period of weeks of stability.”

Several local support companies are saying they may have to lay off several workers because of the situation, she added.