Harland & Wolff workers stood up for manufacturing jobs and won

01 Oct 2019

Press Office

Press Office

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It’s not often that you wake up to good news. Today we did.

Harland and Wolff workers who have been occupying their historic Belfast yard for 9 weeks have won their brave battle to save their jobs and their community. 

I visited the yard last month. It’s not hard to be passionate about this cause because behind the headlines there are real people.

I spoke to members whose fathers and grandfathers had worked at the yard, families who hoped and expected their kids would too. It’s in their blood and the very fabric of the area.

This successful occupation shows what can be done with foresight and the commitment of a workforce and community that wants to be at the heart of manufacturing.


Watch GMB Harland and Wolff member Barry Reid urge the UK Government to stand up for the shipyard 



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This battle for jobs in Belfast is about something much wider too. We want manufacturing to be part of the future across the UK.

It shows what can be done when their unions stand behind a cause worth fighting for – both GMB and Unite pledged to pay our members during the occupation so they could put food on the table and pay the mortgage or rent.

Unlike politicians, GMB was not prepared to let the historic yard - that built the Titanic - go to the wall.

The new owners promise the potential of hundreds of new jobs which is great news for those of us how have been calling for investment in shipbuilding and in the skilled and proud UK workers who have seen far too many contracts sent overseas. 

Along with this comes the opportunity for new skills and investment in the future of manufacturing through apprenticeships.

We welcome the announcement that they will continue to seek shipbuilding and repair work alongside the work already done in building renewable energy infrastructure.

A green industrial revolution – much talked about in the wake of the climate protests - will require the skills of Harland and Wolff workers for years to come; it would be a travesty to lose those skills now.

I’m so proud of our members at Harland and Wolff who refused to give up, and the entire team who supported them. This is what being GMB is all about.

We’ve won this battle, but there is still a lot more to do.

Yards across the UK are crying out for work from Rosyth to Plymouth. If the government want to flash the cash ahead of an election, how about committing to building essential Naval Fleet Solid Support Ships here in UK yards?

That would preserve and create hundreds of jobs and skills that would take a generation to replace. 

Today we’ve shown what can be done when workers stand up and lead.

Now we need to see the same vision, will and courage from politicians in power. 

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