Local workforce representatives accompany Labour party leader around iconic Harland & Wolff shipyard
Labour party backs one billion naval procurement budget going to UK shipyards including Belfast to sustain shipbuilding industry
May 25th: Senior regional Unite officials, Jackie Pollock Regional Secretary and Susan Fitzgerald Regional Coordinating Officer, as well as local shop stewards accompany leader of opposition Jeremy Corbyn MP and Shadow Secretary of State, Tony Lloyd MP in tour of Belfast ship yard.
Speaking after the visit, Unite Regional Secretary Jackie Pollock welcomed the commitment of the leader of the Labour party to the Belfast workforce and called on the UK government to ensure one billion spend for Royal Navy Fleet Support Vessels is allocated to UK shipbuilders.
“For more than one hundred years, Belfast shipyard was a world leader in the industry and produced some of the most iconic vessels in maritime history. Unfortunately over the past decades the decline of British shipbuilding and the failure of consecutive governments to adopt a proactive approach to growing this industry have left our shipbuilding industry as a faint shadow of its former glory.
“It is vital that the British government bring forward a long-term strategy to secure and grow shipbuilding – Belfast must be an integral part of those plans going forward. We cannot afford to be left behind or left out of that future.
“The one billion pounds of public money that will be spent on the construction of three fleet support ships for the Royal Navy offers a huge opportunity for all our shipyards – with Belfast well positioned in particular to deliver this work. Such an outcome would not just safeguard the existing jobs at Harland & Wolff but support a very substantial expansion in local employment. Tied with the substantial public investment in renewables which forms a central plank of Labour’s economic policy, it would offer a platform from which the UK could successfully relaunch our port-side industries.
“Taken against this backdrop, the refusal of the Ministry of Defence to exclude this tender international competition is disgraceful. Their insistence that naval fleet support ships with gun placements and military staffing are not military flies in the face of the practice by virtually every one of our European partners and means that as a non-military vessel it is subject to strict competition rules. By extension retaining this work in the UK will provide substantial demand for British steel – safeguarding thousands more jobs in the wider steel industry.
“Unite welcomes the commitment reiterated by Jeremy Corbyn while he visited Harland & Wolff that these contracts to be allocated to UK ports including Belfast. We are now calling on the UK government, as well as all the local political parties, to step up to the plate and adopt a proactive approach to securing these contracts and a future for workers in Belfast and other UK ports”, Mr Pollock said.
Unite Regional Coordinating Officer, Susan Fitzgerald stated:
“Shipyard workers in Belfast continue to offer world-class skills and commitment, the repair dock here is the largest on these islands. If these ships are built in UK shipyards, it offers the opportunity not just to safeguard Harland & Wolff into the future but to create thousands of jobs and apprenticeships across the UK.
“Lack of continuity of contracts at the shipyard has meant that no new apprentices have walked across the threshold in years – we want to change that. Alongside our colleagues in shipyards across the UK, Unite in Belfast is launching a fight to secure work for our members with the aim of guaranteeing a future of secure well-paid, directly employed jobs and apprenticeships”.