Shipyard workers’ successful occupation remains a shining example to workers facing assault on livelihoods, pay and terms and conditions

One year ago today, Harland & Wolff workers moved to occupy their workplace to defend jobs and skills, and secure a future for the shipyard

Workers occupy Harland & Wolff

Susan Fitzgerald, Unite Regional Coordinating Officer, speaking today said that the example of Harland & Wolff workers who this time last year occupied their shipyard to defend their industry can be an inspiration to other workers at a time of Covid onslaught to jobs, pay, T&Cs.

“One year ago workers at Harland & Wolff faced the immediate prospect of redundancy. The shipyard in which they worked faced closure and sell off as an industrial relic. They were told by politicians of all hues that there was no alternative but to accept their fate.

“Today workers are being asked to accept mass redundancies, attacks on pay and terms and conditions. While the current economic climate is unquestionably difficult; as a society we can’t stand and watch as whole sectors of the economy are wiped out. Thousands of workers face being pushed onto dole queues with their skills – critical for any future economic recovery – going on the scrapheap. We also need to resist those bosses who are seeking to exploit this opportunity to slash payroll costs through job losses, attacking workers’ pay and conditions – all the while that many big companies continue to sit on stockpiles of cash.

“Harland & Wolff workers rewrote the story book; they were no longer content to be the victims of the market – they sought to show that when you fight you can win. It is more vital than ever that workers take courage from their example and turn to their trade unions to build the fightback and defend themselves and secure a future for their industries and the generations of workers to come”, saidMs Fitzgerald.

Speaking for her union, the GMB, Regional Organiser, Denise Walker said that the example of the Harland & Wolff workforce was a beacon for Northern Ireland showing how workers could become the agents of their own destiny:

“The inspirational example of the Harland & Wolff workers who on this day last year occupied their shipyard to defend jobs and secure a future for their industry is something all workers should look towards at this time.

“By occupying the yard for nine weeks, they kept alive the hope of saving Harland & Wolff. Whether it was in pressing the politicians for intervention or working with the administrator – workers took the lead and secured on their aims of a hopeful future.

“In the hard times, they were lifted by the immense outpouring of support from the local community and from trade unionists and workers who came from all corners of these islands to show their solidarity. Their inspiring stand electrified Belfast and showed how workers in this city could come together to make a better future for all”, Ms Walker concluded.

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