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Prospective buyers for Harland and Wolff given bids deadline, say unions

UK News | Published:

The Belfast shipyard, famed for building the Titanic, went into administration last week.

Prospective buyers for administration-hit Belfast shipyard Harland and Wolff must submit indicative bids by midday on Friday, trade unions have said.

Famed for building the Titanic, the shipyard went into administration last week after its troubled Norwegian parent company, Dolphin Drilling, failed to find a buyer.

Workers have occupied the site round the clock for over two weeks as part of a high-profile campaign to save the yard.

Harland and Wolff workers listen to union officials
Harland and Wolff workers are no longer getting paid (Liam McBurney/PA)

BDO Northern Ireland had agreed to a “temporary” unpaid lay-off of the workforce until Friday to enable those commercial opportunities to be assessed.

While the workers are no longer getting paid, the move means their contracts of employment remain unbroken.

Trade unions have been liaising closely with the administrators since they were appointed.

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Susan Fitzgerald, an official from the union Unite, again called for the Government to move in to nationalise the yard – replicating the intervention of the Scottish government at the Ferguson Marine yard in Glasgow.

“The historic stand at Harland and Wolff shipyard has kept the door open for the business to be transferred as a going concern, safeguarding the jobs and skills of this workforce,” she said.

“Unfortunately, the failure to date of the UK government to intervene and take the facility into public ownership has left the workforce reliant on bids coming in from the private sector.

Susan Fitzgerald from Unite
Susan Fitzgerald from Unite recommended the shipyard be renationalised (Liam McBurney/PA)

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“Serious bidders will base their offers on a genuine interest in taking the shipyard forward as a going concern with all the workers’ jobs and skills intact but they need to be aware that if the bids do not reflect a genuine interest, this workforce is going nowhere.”

She continued: “While the workers have been buoyed by the growing interest in the shipyard, renationalisation remains the best outcome for Harland and Wolff.

“The skills of this workforce could be directed at a wide range of productive sectors, including shipbuilding, renewables infrastructure and civil infrastructure.

“Investment in such opportunities offers the potential for thousands of highly skilled jobs to be created here in Belfast in the just transition to a more sustainable economy.”

Denise Walker, senior organiser for the GMB union, said: “In recent days and under pressure from the workforce there, the Scottish government has committed itself to nationalise Ferguson Marine shipyard.

“There can be no excuses for protracted failure to act similarly in Belfast.

“The workforce expects all local political representatives to use any influence they have to compel the UK government to act.”

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