Harland & Wolffe: End of an Era

By Carol Barnet
Socialist Voice October 2002

265 WORKERS in Harland & Wolffe are to lose their jobs next January. The last job losses will leave just 25 manual operatives, which effectively means that the days of shipbuilding in Belfast are over.

A rescue plan which was put to the Assembly in May to get funds to secure approximately 400 jobs in the short term with the prediction that there would be further jobs next year has been lambasted by unions as a "land grabbing" deal.

Peter Robinson, Regional Development Minister gave the parent company Oslen Energy permission to re-zone 80 acres at Queens Island from shipbuilding only to light industrial use.

This increased the value of the land, publicly owned, but on a long term lease to Harland & Wolffe, by around 20 million. Instead of being used to create new jobs, part of this money will now be used for redundancy payments.

The job losses are a big blow to the manufacturing industry. In the 1940's there were 35,000 workers in H&W building a ship every week. Now the resources, the dry dock and the famous cranes will become relics of a bygone era.

Oslen Energy won't worry too much. They get to retain the lease on hundreds of acres of potentially lucrative dockside land, close to the city centre. What is left of the shipyard and land should be taken back into public ownership so that the area can be developed in the interests of the people of Belfast, not of private speculators.

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