Harland and Wolff workers fear for jobs on crunch day for Belfast shipyard

Tom Belger
Finance and policy reporter
The Harland and Wolff shipyard is under threat. Photo: PA

The future of Harland and Wolff workers is hanging in the balance as administrators are expected to visit the Belfast shipyard on Monday.

Workers have been protesting over fears of closure for the past week, calling for the government to help find a solution to save the historic firm, which built the Titanic.

Employees shouted at new UK prime minister Boris Johnson with calls to step in as he met with the leaders of Northern Ireland’s political parties last week.

The workers had locked the gates at the yard, hanging a banner from a crane and holding a family event at the site over the weekend.

The opposition Labour party has called for the UK government to nationalise the shipyard, with leader Jeremy Corbyn saying it is “vital” to the Northern Irish economy.

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The GMB union said in a petition to the government: “The Harland and Wolff shipyard is a crucial part of our history and our future - a national asset for UK manufacturing with world-class infrastructure and workforce, and a crucial part of the social fabric of Belfast for more than 150 years.

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

Workers during a rally at the Harland and Wolff shipyard.

But the government has described it as a “commercial issue” and resisted demands for further intervention.

Marcus Kane, 47, who works at the shipyard, told the Belfast Telegraph: “It’s been tough on families but it’s great to see everyone pulling together in the midst of all that is happening. It’s helping take our minds off things.

“It’s very unsettling to go out and look for work, I don’t know how long it will take to find a new job.”

Brian Walsh, another employee, told the paper: “All these men have families and they all rely on these wages.

“If this place closes that will be the end of heavy industries here. It’s sad this won’t be here for future generations.”