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Thursday, 13 July, 2000, 00:16 GMT 01:16 UK
Unions call for shipbuilding rescue
The Harland and Wolff shipyard
Belfast's Harland and Wolff shipyard was badly hit
Unions are pressing the government to ensure the Ministry of Defence gives much-needed work to the UK's shipyards ahead of a summit on the future of the industry.

The meeting is due to be attended by UK Trade and Industry Secretary Stephen Byers, Northern Ireland trade minister Sir Reg Empey, shipyard owners and unions on Thursday.

We need to work together to secure orders for our shipyards

Roger Lyons, MSF

Roger Lyons of the MSF union said there was huge worldwide demand for shipping.

The summit follows the announcement that up to 5,500 jobs will be kept within the UK's defence industry, thanks to a 1bn order for three new Type 45 destroyers for the Royal Navy.

Mr Lyons said: "We need to work together to secure orders for our shipyards, investment in the skills of the workforce and a level playing field with our competitors to keep this vital industry alive.

"Shipbuilding is a high-tech, high added-value industry."

Roger Lyons
Roger Lyons: "Investment in skills needed"
Subsidies and investment support in Europe, America, Korea and Japan have left UK yards at a competitive disadvantage.

The Navy warship order was good news for workers in Glasgow. Two of the ships will be assembled by BAE Systems Marine, probably at their yards on the Clyde.

But unions in Belfast know the difficulties faced by the industry.

The city's Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast laid off 280 workers in June, despite winning a 300m order for four roll-on-roll-off passenger vessels the month before.

MSF is calling for a proactive approach to regenerating the high-tech industry.

The union strategy calls for:

  • A structured and managed partnership approach towards shipbuilding and ship maintenance between the government, shipyard owners and the unions
  • All Ministry of Defence work to be sourced to UK shipyards
  • All three to actively campaign to ensure a level economic playing field across Europe

The MSF wants the unions in different yards to build on the significant progress already made in the modernisation of working practice.

Mr Lyons said there would be considerable rewards for countries that can maintain a presence in the industry in the future.

"We must work together to ensure the UK gets a share in those rewards," he said.

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See also:

11 Jul 00 | Scotland
Warships order protects jobs
10 Jul 00 | Scotland
Byers' shipyards summit
05 Jul 00 | Scotland
Campaigners mount final Govan effort
23 Nov 99 | Scotland
Clyde yard lands destroyer order
13 Apr 99 | Business
'Blood and sweat' of the River Clyde
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