Prime minister Boris Johnson is on the verge of betraying Northern Ireland workers if the UK government fails to step in at the last minute to save the Harland and Wolff shipyard, Unite warned today (Monday 5 August).

With the Belfast shipyard hours away from officially going into administration Unite called on the UK government to put Harland and Wolff into the hands of the official receiver and underwrite the firm in a similar arrangement to that undertaken with British Steel.

Unite believes such a move would enable the shipyard to continue operating as a going concern, sign contracts for on-going work and give confidence to customers, suppliers and contractors to commit already allocated work to the shipyard, including a refit contract worth over £22 million with Terranova.

Commenting Unite assistant general secretary for manufacturing Steve Turner said: “Boris Johnson is on the verge of betraying Northern Ireland workers, their families and communities reliant on skilled, well paid jobs in addition to a proud heritage of shipbuilding, maintenance and repair at Harland and Wolff.

“Standing back and allowing the shipyard to fall into administration to be picked over for scrap value by vultures looking to make a quick buck is in nobody’s interest. As time runs out, Boris Johnson must step in, put Harland and Wolff into the hands of the official receiver and underwrite day-to-day running costs in the same way that successfully happened with British Steel.

“This will give a loyal customer base the confidence to place orders and the company the ability to sign contracts which it currently doesn’t have. We know work is in the pipeline and a secure future can be provided to the yard until a responsible buyer is found avoiding the devastation of closure and forcing skilled workers onto the dole.

“Staving off administration is not just in the economic and social interest of Northern Ireland, but in the strategic defence interests of the UK. Harland and Wolff has the largest dry dock in the UK and the only one big enough to fit our new Royal Navy aircraft carriers when they need to come in for maintenance and repairs.

“Additionally, the shipyard works with BAE on the Dreadnought submarine programme, has an important part to play in the building of the Royal Navy’s new Type 31e Frigates and is central to the UK consortium’s bid to build the navy’s fleet solid support ships.

“There is no reason why Harland and Wolff cannot have a bright future. All this proud workforce needs is a temporary boost from government and a commitment from UK ministers that they will back UK shipbuilding by block building the new fleet solid support ships in yards across the UK.”


For more information journalists only please contact Alex Flynn Unite head of media and campaigns on 020 3371 2066 or 07967 665869 

Notes to editors:

  • Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.