31/01/2002

Harland and Wolff issue warning over workforce

Harland and Wolff (H&W) have warned that unless it successfully secures new orders, it will be forced to make further cuts to its workforce.

In an official statement released on Thursday January 31, H&W's parent company Olsen Energy revealed that the Belfast shipyard lost over £5 million last year. While the figure represents a much better performance for the yard than in 2000 – when losses totalled £28 million – recent contracts have only served to stave off the looming crisis rather than removing the threat of cutbacks.

The Ministry of Defence recently placed an order for two ferries, but without more orders, the shipyard will likely find itself in dire straits.

In recent years, the company has suffered from fluctuating fortunes. In 1999, a dispute with one of its biggest customers over payment for two vessels threatened to have serious consequences for the financial future of the company and jobs.

In the same year, a row over payment for an oilrig erupted between H&W and Norwegian firm Statoil, who claimed the rig was not completed in accordance with safety and structural requirements.

In 2000, the yard's future seemed the bleakest yet, as a major order went to a French competitor, leaving Harland and Wolff with no new orders on its books, which would have seen the closure of the company with the loss of over 1,700 jobs. Redundancy notices were served to 280 workers.

Harland and Wolff are one of Northern Ireland's biggest employers. (CL)

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