H&W: Unite warns against selling iconic yard to ‘brand-stripper’

Unite logo white out of redRe-nationalisation would allow workers to get on with the job

August 4th: Unite, which represents workers at Harland and Wolff, today warned against allowing the yard to be bought by what the union termed a ‘brand-stripper’ who would jettison the jobs while using the iconic yard’s history as a marketing device. Speaking less than 24 hours before the shipyard is due to go into administration, Regional Coordinating Officer Susan Fitzgerald was commenting on speculation that the MJM group, which withdrew from negotiations two weeks ago plunging the yard into the current crisis, has now resurfaced as a potential bidder in a post-administration situation.  Pointing out that the head of MJM had previously raised the possibility of relocating his group’s manufacturing activities to Poland, Ms Fitzgerald said that Harland and Wolff needs an investor with a long-term commitment to Northern Ireland, and she reiterated the union’s call for re-nationalisation of the shipyard.  Ms Fitzgerald was speaking at the Family Fun Day organised by Harland and Wolff workers as a way of thanking all those who have supported them as their fight to save the iconic yard.

“As administrators prepare to move into Harland and Wolff tomorrow, workers are extremely concerned at speculation that the MJM group, which had been in exclusive negotiations with Harland and Wolff before abruptly pulling out two weeks ago, may to be looking to buy the yard in a post-administration situation. This would be a cynical move designed to jettison jobs and workers.

“We know that MJM has already outlined its plans to Invest NI and the Department for the Economy – plans in which the workers are surplus to requirements”, Ms Fitzgerald added.

“Decision-makers should be aware that the group’s founder and chairman, Brian McConville, earlier this year threatened to move their manufacturing operations to Poland in the event of Brexit.  This would seem to indicate that he has a short-term interest in the group’s bottom line, rather than a long-term interest in Northern Ireland’s economy and manufacturing base.

“There is still time for the Government to put aside its ideological prejudices and re-nationalise Harland and Wolff.  Given the cost – in terms of lost purchasing power and taxes, as well as expenditure on benefits – of losing Harland and Wolff’s jobs, re-nationalisation would be a sound commercial decision as well as an investment in Northern Ireland’s future.

“Harland and Wolff workers have the expertise and experience to turn the yard around.  Re-nationalisation would allow them to get on with the job, rather than lose their jobs”, Ms Fitzgerald concluded.

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