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The BBC's Dennis Murray
"The new order hands the yard and its workers a lifeline"
 real 28k

Joe Bowers, MSFU
"There are mixed feelings"
 real 28k

Brynjulv Mugaas, Harland and Wolff Chief Executive
"We had to be sure we could execute it in a profitable way"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 10 May, 2000, 20:06 GMT 21:06 UK
'Time to rebuild yard's reputation'
Shipyard workers marched to express concern over jobs
Nearly 300 workers still expected to lose jobs
The chief executive of Harland and Wolff has said the Belfast shipyard must work to rebuild its reputation now it has secured a lifeline order.

The threat of closure was lifted from H&W following the signing of a 300m contract with Bahamas-based firm Seamasters International for four sophisticated Ropax roll-on-roll-off passenger vessels.

The announcement came a day after workers at the yard voted narrowly to accept a new pay and conditions package.

The entire workforce had been working under the threat of redundancy in June if no new work was secured for the yard.

H&W Chief executive Brynjulv Mugaas
Brynjulv Mugaas: Need to restore reputation in marketplace

The future of the yard had been in doubt since the company lost a 400m order to build the Queen Mary II liner for Cunard to a French yard, leaving its order books empty.

H&W Chief Executive Brynjulv Mugaas said the yard could not afford any more failures after securing the new contract.

"I would say it was a hard competition, but really what gave us this order was our ability to deliver the ships at the dates we can deliver them.

"It is of course important when we are getting a new order that we are able to execute that order in a good way and a profitable way, because we cannot take another loss and we also have our reputation to restore out in the market," he said.

Jobs axed under pay deal

Former Northern Ireland trade minister and East Belfast Ulster Unionist assemblyman Sir Reg Empey said securing the order was a "magnificent achievement" in the most difficult circumstances.

Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Mandelson said the order was "good news for all of Northern Ireland".

The contract contains an option for two further vessels bringing its total potential value to 500m.

If all six vessels were built in Belfast delivery would be from 2002-2004.

However, many of the workforce are angry at the changes in their pay and conditions that the yard's management persuaded them to accept.

On Tuesday, approximately half of the yard's 1,700 workers voted by a margin of 424 to 389 to accept the new deal under which 300 of the yard's core workforce will lose their jobs.

Yard needs short-term work

The men also agreed to a wage freeze to July 2003 and a change in allowances, which will reduce their take-home, pay to 310 a week for a skilled worker.

However Donald McGregor of the of the GMB Union said the order was the best thing for the company and workforce.

He said: "This is a major and timely boost for the company and its workforce.

"The GMB will work closely with everyone involved to ensure that this contract goes through smoothly and that Harland and Wolff is in a strong position to continue its long tradition of ship and off-shore construction."

However, the financing of the yard's new contract has yet to be worked out, and it is still trying to find work to fill the gap between the end of a US oil drill ship contract during the summer and the start of the new order.

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10 May 00 | Northern Ireland
Shipyard wins new order
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04 May 00 | Northern Ireland
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