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Wednesday, July 14, 1999 Published at 15:00 GMT 16:00 UK

Business: The Company File

Kvaerner workers applaud union officials

The joy is reflected on workers' faces

Workers at Kvaerner's Glasgow Govan shipyard have given shop stewards a standing ovation after a deal was struck over the sale of the yard.

Hayley Miller reports on the jubilation at the yard
The tribute was made at a mass meeting following the agreement in principle reached between Kvaerner and GEC Marconi.

Champagne corks popped and union officials were piped in to the meeting as the workers showed their gratitude towards their representatives.

Talks are continuing on the detail of the sale but the signs are positive that the deal will be finalised.

Forbes McFall speaks to relieved workers
Sixteen Scottish Labour MPs have tabled a motion in the Commons praising the workforce and the union leaders at the Kvaerner shipyard.

The 1,200 workers have undergone weeks of uncertainty during the on-off negotiations between Kvaerner and GEC.

But the framework of a deal was finally reached after 10 hours of talks at the Scottish Office chaired by Scottish Secretary John Reid.

Redundancy notices

Dr Reid said the 241 compulsory redundancy notices due to take effect on Friday would be lifted by the end of the week.

Sir Gavin Laird: "Both sides compromised"
Sir Gavin Laird, who led a taskforce set up to secure the yard's future, said: "Both Kvaerner and GEC did compromise.

"The government have been extremely helpful in an extremely defensible fashion and I can go no further than that. The agreement is confidential."

[ image: Dr John Reid: Brokered deal]
Dr John Reid: Brokered deal
More details are expected to emerge and Sir Gavin was adamant that the deal would be concluded within days.

Kvaerner announced in April it was pulling out of its worldwide shipping interests and was putting the Glasgow yard up for sale.

Dr Reid said: "At the same time Marconi has agreed to place work into Govan to cover any shortfall as previous orders are completed."

It is thought GEC will transfer the completion of two supply vessels for the Royal Navy from its yard at Barrow-in-Furness in Cumbria.

Dr John Reid: "Deal was a team effort"
Dr Reid paid tribute to the Kvaerner workers: "I realise how difficult it has been for the workforce during the negotiations.

"That is why my priority over this difficult time has been to do everything I can to get both sides talking together again.

[ image: Workers are preparing for a happier holiday]
Workers are preparing for a happier holiday
"It is good for the workforce at Govan, good for Scotland and good for the companies involved."

However he warned that Marconi could only place enough work in the yard to secure its short term future and that Govan would have to win further contracts for it to remain viable in the long term.

GMB union convener Jamie Webster said: "It's a dream come true, better than winning the lottery.

With the yard closing down for summer holidays, Mr Webster said he would tell workers: "Let's have a party. We are going on holiday on Friday, seriously, that's what we'll say."

Jamie Webster: "Let's have a party"
And he was confident about the future: "We'll face the challenges and we are not God's chosen people. We don't expect favours - we'll compete in the market with anyone."

A GEC Marconi Marine spokesman confirmed detailed talks were continuing on the deal.

The BBC's James Shaw: "There should be up to two years worth of work"
"Clearly we are now much more optimistic but we do need to get through these other talks to trigger the next steps."

He added that British Aerospace, which is about to merge with Marconi, has been kept informed and has been consulted on the decisions taken so far.

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