Belfast shipyard Harland & Wolff today announced that it is laying off 144 of its employees in a bid to preserve the industry.
One hundred employees with the steelwork trades and 44 other staff are to be laid off as a result of a lack of orders beyond current work for the Ministry of Defence, it was confirmed.
In a statement, Harland & Wolff said the redundancies were necessary because the workforce and the shipyard would have been underused as it had no firm contracts for future work.
‘‘The company has sought to delay initiating action on redundancies as long as possible, not least as individuals’ livelihoods are at stake, and has been in consultations with the trade unions since November 2001 when the potential under-utilisation (of the workforce) was initially identified.
‘‘Those employees affected will be notified shortly, with the first tranche of individual notices following thereafter.
‘‘This is expected to mount to some 85 employees, comprising 75 operators and 10 staff.’’
The shipyard said it would also consider applications from employees for voluntary redundancy in those areas which would be affected by the lack of orders.
The news was regretted by the Northern Ireland economy minister, Sir Reg Empey.
The Ulster Unionist minister, in whose constituency the shipyard is based, said: ‘‘It has been known for some time that Harland & Wolff have been having problems gaining new orders.
‘‘I have kept in close contact with senior management and have discussed the on-going difficulties at the yard many times with them.
‘‘I very much regret the news that the company is now to make redundancies. They are a reflection of the continuing lack of orders beyond the current RORO work for the Ministry of Defence.’’
Sir Reg said it was up to the directors of the shipyard to decide what action was needed in the current economic climate.
However, he said that along with his Democratic Unionist cabinet colleague, the minister for regional development Peter Robinson, he would be watching closely the review of the company’s restructuring plan as it neared completion.