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Thursday, 29 November, 2001, 18:00 GMT
Unions meet minister for shipyard talks
Harland and Wolff
The shipyard is currently working on a MoD contract
Trade unionists from Harland and Wolff have met the Northern Ireland enterprise minister, Sir Reg Empey, to express their concerns about the future of the company.

The Belfast shipyard could face closure if it does not secure a new order in the coming months.

George Matchett of the GMB union said the meeting with the minister had gone well.

"He has influences in a number of areas and we believe that some of the information we have given him will help Harland's to put together a package.

George Matchett
George Matchett: Held talks with the enterprise minister

"Hopefully, there will be an order for us in the very near future," he said.

The shipyard is currently working on two ferries for the Ministry of Defence.

Workers at the yard have been warned that an improved performance is needed if the vessels are to be finished on time and within budget.

If the company fails to secure another order in the near future further jobs could be lost.

Over 600 employees were made redundant last year.

Meanwhile, a survey out on Thursday showed that of those who lost their jobs at the yard last year, more than two thirds of them had jobs six months later.

The study also found that older workers and those with few formal skills had struggled in the jobs market more than the rest.

"A lot of people were able to find work because the labour market was acutally quite buoyant at the time," said Ian Shuttleworth of Queen's University.

"But I suppose the sort of caveat is that the success of people finding work after redundancy is dependent on the overall level of demand in the local economy.

"Things have changed really since the early part of this year."

The biggest single group of workers moved to the aerospace factory, Shorts, and because of the changed economic circumstances, some of them now find their jobs under threat once more.

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