Day four of Harland & Wolff occupation – South African unions send international solidarity to occupiers

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Harland & Wolff shipbuilders are into their fourth day of occupation to stop the yard’s closure – GMB leader Tim Roache visited the occupation yesterday

THE OCCUPATION of Harland and Wolff, in Belfast in the north of Ireland, is going from strength to strength, now into its fourth day with the GMB General Secretary Tim Roache visiting the shipyard to show his support for the shipbuilders.

Roache said: ‘I’m here to stand shoulder to shoulder with GMB members who work at Harland and Wolff.

‘This is a fight for our members’ jobs and livelihoods, but it’s about the wider future of our manufacturing industry too.

‘We’re sick of good jobs being sent overseas when skilled workers in the UK and Ireland are facing the dole.

‘This government needs to stop worrying about leaving the EU and put forward a proper plan to save UK manufacturing.’

Both Unite and the GMB are calling for renationalisation.

Meanwhile, the South African union federation SAFTU has declared its solidarity with the shipbuilders.

Their statement reads: ‘The South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) declares its solidarity with workers in Belfast, Northern Ireland, who have been occupying the Harland and Wolff shipyard since Monday, demanding action to save their 130 jobs.

‘The Belfast yard, famous for building the Titanic in the early 20th century, has been facing bankruptcy for the past few years, leading to its sale and closure and the loss of all the jobs. There has been a long-term decline in jobs, from 35,000 workers to just 130 workers.

‘Everyone should get behind these workers. An injury to one is an injury to all. People power and class solidarity is the only way.

‘Selling state-owned companies is not only a problem in the UK. Here in South Africa we are experiencing the same, with energy supply company “Eskom”. The ANC government is pushing ahead with its privatisation that will result in job-shedding.

‘As a fighting federation we are not going to fold our arms, but take this war to the streets and demand the ending of privatisation and the saving of jobs, both here and in the UK.

‘We are calling on all trade unions and civil society organisations to unite and fight for Harland and Wolff to be in public ownership under workers’ control and management in order to save jobs and important skills.

‘This must be a stepping stone in combating austerity policies that seek to suffocate workers in UK and the world.

‘The crisis in the world economy is continuing to create extreme hardship for the majority of workers, who are being forced to suffer austerity policies that shift resources away from social needs, into the hands of the private capitalist elite.

‘The only force that can save these jobs and skills is the working class of the United Kingdom and Ireland. Boris Johnson is nothing but a junior Donald Trump, representing an extreme right-wing agenda and the interests of the rich who also want to privatise the UK’s National Health Service.

‘SAFTU is calling on our affiliates in the seaports and harbours to organise lunch-time pickets in solidarity with Harland and Wolff workers and also pickets outside the British embassy.

‘Workers of The World Unite!’

  • UK manufacturing output plummeted at the fastest rate in years last month, shock new figures show.

According to the monthly purchasing managers’ index (PMI) released this morning UK manufacturers’ output fell by the most in seven years in July 2019.

Jude Brimble, GMB National Secretary, said: ‘Every week more and more contracts and jobs are put at risk – people are worried sick about how they will cope.

‘The government must urgently listen to the voices of workers and UK manufacturing and focus on defending decent jobs before even more damage is done.’