WORKERS vowed to continue their occupation and stop the closure of Harland and Wolff shipbuilding industry in Belfast, after the yard went into administration yesterday afternoon.
Joe Passmore, Unite representative and worker at Harland and Wolff, said: ‘This requires government money to keep this going. We will stay here and continue to occupy for as long as we need to.
‘We are not prepared to let someone come into this yard and asset-strip, or some vulture who is going to turn this into a marina.
‘We are proud of our history and we are proud of our industry and we are not going to let that go.’
Calling for the government to renationalise the yard Labour shadow chancellor John McDonnell said: ‘This is a state of emergency now, it requires the national government to intervene.
‘It requires the attention of the Prime Minister. Now, it is all well and good Boris Johnson doing a tour of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, announcing expenditure commitments etcetera like some huge publicity stunt, but this is the reality of the economy that the Tories have created.’
Michael Mulholland, regional organiser for the GMB union in the north of Ireland, said: ‘There are 121 core employees in Belfast at the moment. They potentially could be out of a job this afternoon. The company issued an HR1 form on Friday, putting the employees and unions on notice of that.’
Calling for renationalisation, he said: ‘We believe that there is a case for government intervention similar to what appears to be going on on the Clyde with Ferguson Marine shipyard with the Scottish government.
‘One of the problems here is that we do not have a functioning devolved administration to make such decisions, so we have to look to London.
‘Bombardier is also up for sale, both companies are on Queen’s Island with the potential for massive job loses should a solution not be found for either.’
The Harland and Wolff workers have shut themselves in, locked the gates and occupied the shipyard for the last week and refused to leave the site demanding that the government step in and renationalise it.
Barry Reid, a Harland and Wolff worker said: ‘I have been fighting day and night for this place. And I will stay on for as long as it takes until one of our politicians gets off their backside and does something about this situation.’
His brother Eddie Reid said: ‘There are a lot of people in there who I know who have worked there a very long time, whose fathers came over here 40, 50, 60-years ago to settle in Belfast and work for the shipyard.’
Robert Childs, the fourth generation of his family to work in Harland and Wolff, said: ‘It is very emotional. I’ve worked for this company for 37 years now and it’s absolutely in the blood … it’s in Belfast’s DNA.
‘This city was built around this company and it would be a terrible shame if we were to lose it.’
Dave Wiltshire, secretary of the All Trade Union Alliance commented: ‘The whole working class must support this occupation of Harland and Wolff and demand that it is renationalised.
‘However, the Harland and Wolff workers are not on their own. Workers at Vauxhall, Ford, Nissan and Honda all face savage cuts and job losses. All these industries must be occupied by the workers, they must follow the example of Harland and Wolff.
‘Not only that, the TUC must be forced to take action. The action that is required is that a general strike must be called to defend all jobs and to see that industries are nationalised. This means bringing down the Tories and bringing in a workers government to do the job.’