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The BBC's Kevin Bocquet
"The workforce fear that if rows are not resolved, it could lead to lay-offs in the run up to Christmas"
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John Quigley, AEEU maritme officer
"This is really a mystery to us all"
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Friday, 24 November, 2000, 05:42 GMT
Shipyard jobs fear over liner U-turn
Ship's propeller
A huge upgrading contract worth 50m is feared lost
Fears for hundreds of shipyard jobs have been sparked after an Italian cruise liner due in the UK for a major upgrade reportedly turned back.

Cammell Laird's yard on Merseyside was expecting the luxury ship Costa Classica this week so work could start on a new section.

The order is worth up to 50m and would take until March to complete.

The yard has already spent millions of pounds on this contract and the Italians have some explaining to do

John Quigley
But the liner unexpectedly turned back off the coast of Spain on Wednesday and is returning to Italy, according to industry sources.

Union sources say they now fear the contract, safeguarding hundreds of jobs, might be at risk.

Officials at Cammell Laird are checking reports of the Costa Classica's abrupt U-turn but so far have no information about why it could have happened.

John Quigley, national officer of the Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union, said it would be "simply outrageous" if the contract did not go ahead.

"It is unacceptable if this company is leaving the yard high and dry.

"Merseyside has a solid reputation for delivering work on time and on budget and there is no reason why that ship should not have arrived by now.

"The yard has already spent millions of pounds on this contract and the Italians have some explaining to do."

Cammell Laird sign
Cammell Laird has a long tradition in the UK's shipping industry
A huge mid-body section has already been built at the yard in readiness for the ship's arrival.

Urgent talks are being sought by the union with Cammell Laird to discuss the job implications.

The firm's Merseyside yard has a long history in commercial and military shipping.

Vessels built there include the aircraft carrier Ark Royal and, more recently, the navy's Upholder class submarines.

The Costa Classica, built in 1991, carries 1,300 cruise passengers in luxurious surroundings complete with sculptures, paintings and marble fittings.

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See also:

06 Nov 00 | Business
France wins Queen Mary II order
02 Nov 00 | Business
UK cruise liner first in 25 years
26 Oct 00 | Business
New shipyard contracts top 1bn
06 Dec 99 | Business
Yards staying afloat
04 Feb 99 | The Company File
Cammell Laird looks shipshape
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