Harland and Wolff workers get back to work after shipyard saved

Victorious workers march back through the gates of Belfast shipyard after facility salvaged in $7.3m deal.

    The Harland and Wolff cranes have long dominated the east Belfast skyline [File photo: 2003/Paul McErlane/Reuters]
    The Harland and Wolff cranes have long dominated the east Belfast skyline [File photo: 2003/Paul McErlane/Reuters]

    Harland and Wolff employees have returned to work at the shipyard after the sale of the closure-threatened facility.

    When the shipyard - famous for building the ill-fated Titanic - entered administration earlier in summer, many staff accepted a redundancy payment.

    But a group of 79 workers held a sit-in occupation protest for the past nine weeks, and were reinstated when Harland & Wolff was rescued by new buyers this week.

    There were cheers as the workers walked through the gates in Belfast at 9am.

    Harland and Wolff was bought for 6 million pounds ($7.3m) by InfraStrata, a London-based company that specialises in energy infrastructure projects.

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    Steel worker and GMB trade union shop steward Barry Reid described Thursday morning at the shipyard gates as "the day we prayed would come".

    "Everybody is ecstatic at what has happened, we believed in ourselves, we believed in the company, we have been proved right," he said. "It's a great day for the workers of Northern Ireland."

    Harland and Wolff's two giant ship cranes - named Samson and Goliath - have dominated the east Belfast skyline for decades.

    InfraStrata said it planned to increase the size of the workforce by several hundred over the next five years.

    Earlier this week, chief executive John Wood said: "Harland and Wolff is a landmark asset and its reputation as one of the finest multipurpose fabrication facilities in Europe is testament to its highly skilled team in Belfast."

    Believe in yourselves and be very proud of yourselves. Now, let's get back to work

    Joe Passmore, steelworker

    Shadow Northern Ireland secretary Tony Lloyd and Ulster Unionist MLA Andy Allen were among a number of supporters who turned out on Thursday morning.

    Steel worker and Unite union shop steward Joe Passmore addressed the workers briefly before they walked through the shipyard gates:

    "What we have achieved has been historic," he said. "Every one of us needs to be extremely proud of ourselves. We can see what we are going to achieve when we go through there - it's going to set the world alight.

    "It's the new Harland and Wolff; we're the community that is going to build that new Harland and Wolff, so believe in yourselves and be very proud of yourselves."

    To further cheers, he added: "Now, let's get back to work."

    SOURCE: News agencies