‘We are here for as long as it takes!’ say defiant Harland and Wolff workers

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Firefighters at the Belfast rally with FBU general secretary MATT WRACK (4th left)

HUNDREDS of workers joined yesterday’s Harland and Wolff Rally in Belfast, with speakers reiterating their demand for the renationalisation of the shipyard.

Unite Regional Coordinating Officer Susan Fitzgerald chaired the Irish Congress of Trade Unions solidarity rally at the shipyard gates at which a range of leading trade unionists spoke.

Introducing the event, Fitzgerald said: ‘Today’s rally demonstrates the support that exists for these workers and their inspirational stand for jobs and skills.

‘When Harland and Wolff went into administration four weeks ago, only these workers and their unions took the bit between their teeth and moved to safeguard jobs and skills – not just for today but for the future.’

Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said ahead of the rally: ‘It’s shameful that Boris Johnson’s government has refused to step up and re-nationalise the Harland and Wolff shipyard.

‘While there does now seem to be some hope that it can be saved, job losses or the erosion of working conditions must not be part of any bailout deal.

‘As firefighters, we are proud to stand with Harland and Wolff workers in their fight to keep dignified jobs at the shipyard and fully support their occupation.

‘This shipyard is an iconic symbol of Northern Ireland’s working-class history and must be saved.’

Unite Regional coordinating officer, Davy Thompson said: ‘The workers who have occupied the Harland & Wolff shipyard for four weeks now have demonstrated tremendous ambition for the future – not just for their own jobs but that of future generations.

‘We need to see a similar ambition from the UK government for the Northern Ireland economy, in particular the manufacturing sector.’

Longterm Harland and Wolff shipyard worker and Unite member, Joe Passmore told the rally: ‘This shipyard has a long, long history.

‘We are very proud of that long history and if someone out there thinks that they can easily take it away from Belfast, that they can take it away from this community, take it away from these workers, they can think again, because we’re here for as long as it takes.

‘Never, ever underestimate these workers!’

  • The administrators of the Harland and Wolff shipyard say they have received a number of non-binding offers to buy the business as a going concern.

Administrators, BDO, said there are other interested parties which may result in further offers.

BDO has agreed with the unions to extend the unpaid temporary lay-off of staff until 30 September.

‘There has been a healthy level of interest with regard to purchasing the business, assets and safeguarding the existing jobs,’ a BDO spokesperson said.