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Monday, July 5, 1999 Published at 17:02 GMT 18:02 UK

Business: The Company File

Kvaerner begins Govan lay-offs

Workers are resisting the redundancies

Norwegian company Kvaerner is to issue redundancy notices to 250 workers at its Glasgow Govan shipyard.

The announcement has raised fears that all 1,200 jobs could be lost if Kvaerner fails to reach agreement with GEC Marconi over the sale of the yard.

Scottish Secretary Dr John Reid: "This is not over"
It dashed earlier hopes that Kvaerner managers were reconsidering what may be the first wave of lay-offs amid speculation GEC was about to make a bid.

Unions had refused to accept any redundancies at a mass meeting on Monday morning and said they were prepared to challenge the legality of Kvaerner's action.

[ image: Kvaerner has been urged to finalise a deal]
Kvaerner has been urged to finalise a deal
Further union meetings have now been arranged to discuss the next move in their campaign following the Kvaerner announcement.

Talks with GEC Marconi over the sale of the yard are continuing but have failed so far to produce an agreement.

A Kvaerner spokesman said: "Following the group's decision in April to make a complete exit from its worldwide shipbuilding activities, Kvaerner has worked strenuously to find a buyer for the Govan yard.

"Despite these best efforts, and the supporting role of a government task force, so far the group has not obtained any formal proposals from interested buyers.

"With an empty order book from early autumn, the Kvaerner group said last week that it now reluctantly had to implement redundancy notices, terminating the jobs of 250 employees on July 16."

[ image: Kvaerner says job losses are unavoidable]
Kvaerner says job losses are unavoidable
Following a meeting with management, the GMB union's staff convenor, Allan Curran, said: "We are disappointed that the news has come.

"We were hoping that the company would have a bid from GEC. In fact that is not the case".

He said union convenors would address mass meetings of the workforce to update them on the situation.

"We will go back to the mass meetings and we are confident that nobody will volunteer for redundancy," he said.

Mr Curran said workers remain hopeful a GEC bid will go ahead but GMB union Regional Secretary Robert Parker was downbeat and accused Kvaerner of "giving up" on the yard.

Productive workers

"The highly skilled, loyal and productive workers of Govan are now suffering from the brutal brinkmanship of Kvaerner and GEC.

"This is a sad day for Scottish shipbuilding and a sad day for Scotland," Mr Parker added.

But Antti Pankakoski, head of Kvaerner's shipbuilding activities, said the company had no choice but to issue notice of redundancies.

He said: "Considering the fact that all the interested parties have had nearly three months to contemplate their interest, we are surprised and disappointed that no bids have been forthcoming to date.

"Regretfully, we now have no option but to commence this procedure."

[ image: Dr John Reid: Reassurance]
Dr John Reid: Reassurance
Scottish Secretary Dr John Reid promised the Government-appointed task force set up to secure the yard's future will continue its work and the fate of the workers is not yet sealed.

He said: "I understand how difficult this is for the workforce because of the uncertainty but I want to assure them discussions are ongoing.

"I do not regard this matter as over, and we will continue to make every effort to ensure there is a future for the yard and the workforce."

If a bid is successful for the yard, the 250 redundancy notices will immediately be lifted.

Scottish Trades Union Congress General Secretary Bill Speirs said the workers should be "congratulated" for resisting redundancy proposals.

He said: "They have rejected redundancies, recognising that they wouldn't just be a blow to the individuals involved - they would also damage the overall viability of the yard as a going concern."

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