Secretary of State challenged over government inaction on Harland & Wolff as trade unionists rally at shipyard gates

Workers photo © Bobbie Hanvey L1004250

Photo – copyright Bobbie Hanvey

Speakers at rally reiterate call for nationalisation and contrast government inaction with leadership shown by workforce and trade union movement

Secretary of State for NI, Julian Smith MP grilled over failure to safeguard jobs at Harland and Wolff and the absence of an ambitious economic strategy at Belfast manufacturing forum

Trade unionists were active on several fronts at the same time in pressing the UK government to safeguard a future for the Belfast shipyard workforce. Unite Regional Coordinating Officer Susan Fitzgerald chaired an Irish Congress of Trade Unions solidarity rally at the shipyard gates at which a range of leading trade unionists spoke.

“Today’s rally demonstrates the support that exists for these workers and their inspirational stand for jobs and skills. When Harland and Wolff went into administration four weeks ago, 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 commercial bids received by the administrator so far are both serious and credible and demonstrate that the workforce were right to have confidence in 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. Continue reading

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Trade unionists to rally in support of shipyard workers fight to save jobs and skills at Harland and Wolff

H&W iconic picSpeakers at trade union rally include Matt Wrack, the General Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union and Alex Rogan, GMB convenor at Ferguson Marine

Rally to proceed concurrently with Belfast City Council manufacturing forum meeting at which union representatives will direct questions to Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Julian Smith MP

The Northern Ireland committee of the Irish Congress of Trades Unions (ICTU) will host a rally of trade unionists in solidarity with the Harland & Wolff workforce and their fight to save the future of the shipyard tomorrow at 12.30pm. At the same time the rally will gather at the gates of the shipyard, union representatives will address a meeting of Belfast City Council’s manufacturing forum at which the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Julian Smith MP will be present and be questioned over the response of the UK government to the crisis in the company.

Unite 008Unite Regional Secretary, Jackie Pollock, welcomed the initiatives and extended a welcome to the speakers who had confirmed for the rally.

“Four weeks ago few gave any chance that this shipyard could be saved. Politicians, economists and pundits agreed that there was no hope and that this was a business in long decline. Only the workers and their trade unions believed that a future was there to be won. In the total absence of government action to safeguard the yard, through their action in occupying the shipyard, the workforce held open the door for a range of credible commercial bids to come forward. These workers have demonstrated in the flesh the creative power of organised labour and our ability as a class to reshape things in our own interests.

“While the quality and seriousness of the commercial bids provide a significant degree of confidence for the future, the workforce continues to demand action from government; in particular should these commercial bids fail to convert into reality – the government must intervene to renationalise this industry. Continue reading

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Professor John Barry of Queens University launches an open letter in support of Harland & Wolff workforce


Professor John Barry, QUB

Calls by unions for nationalisation of the shipyard are perfectly consistent with action on climate

John Barry, Professor of Green Political Economy at Queens University Belfast today launched an open letter urging academics, politicians and the wider public to back the Harland & Wolff workforce campaign to safeguard jobs and skills at Belfast shipyard. The open letter seeks support not just for the retention but expansion of the shipyard in light of its vital importance for a ‘just transition’ to a future sustainable economy.

Professor Barry spoke of the reasons he has brought forward this initiative.

“As a society we have passed a ‘tipping point’ on addressing the climate and ecological crisis; politicians and decision-makers globally are ‘playing catch up’ with recent mobilisations demanding greater and faster action on our climate crisis. The most recent climate science stresses the scale and urgency of reducing greenhouse emissions.  In order to meet the goal of the 2015 Paris Agreement to stay below two degrees warming, global emissions will have to peak less than a year from now and thereafter reduce by more than seven percent annually. If we want to meet the goal of the 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that is the lower and safer 1.5 degree warming target, we require ‘far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society’ with reductions of between 30-50 percent in global emissions by 2030 in energy, land use, transportation and agriculture. We desperately need leadership to meet this challenge. Continue reading

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Prospective buyers for Harland & Wolff to provide indicative bids for the business as a going-concern by midday tomorrow  

Unite logo white out of redAfter Scottish government announce they will nationalise Ferguson Marine shipyard, unions call on UK government to safeguard jobs and skills in Belfast

Susan Fitzgerald, Unite Regional Coordinating Officer demanded the UK government move quickly to renationalise Belfast shipyard:

“The historic stand at Harland & Wolff shipyard has kept the door open for the business to be transferred as a going-concern safeguarding the jobs and skills of this workforce. Unfortunately the failure to date of the UK government to intervene and take the facility into public ownership has left the workforce are reliant on bids coming in from the private sector.

“We understand that prospective buyers have been asked to provide indicative bids by midday tomorrow. Serious bidders will base their offers on a genuine interest in taking the shipyard forward as a going concern with all the workers’ jobs and skills intact but they need to be aware that if the bids do not reflect a genuine interest, this workforce is going nowhere. Continue reading

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The hands that built our shipyard: Call for former H&W workers to come to yard tomorrow at noon

H&W iconic picAul’ hands on deck to Save Our Shipyard

When: Sunday August 11th at 12 noon

Where: Harland and Wolff shipyard, Dee Street, Belfast

Former and retired Harland and Wolff workers are invited to come to the shipyard at noon on Sunday August 11th when concrete prints will be made of the ‘hands that built the shipyard’.  The event is part of the ongoing occupation to save jobs and the yard.

Unite shop steward at the shipyard, Joe Passmore said:

“The gesture of concrete hand prints is a testament to the people who built this great industry. The yard means so much to this city and beyond, it needs to be re-nationalised. We need to take ownership. All hands on deck – let’s save our shipyard”.

Unite Regional Coordinating Officer Susan Fitzgerald said that those campaigning to save the yard have been inspired by solidarity from retired workers:

“The massive campaign to save Harland and Wolff has struck a chord with people throughout Belfast and Northern Ireland, including many former and retired workers.  This project reminds us that Harland and Wolff was built by workers’ hands.  We don’t just need to save current jobs:  we also need to pass on skills to a new generation of workers’ hands”.

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