Harland & Wolff
After a historic nine-week occupation, workers and Harland & Wolff have secured the future of the iconic shipyard, for now at least, with all workers who had chosen not to take redundancy returning to work with their pay and conditions in tact. Had it not been for the workers taking matters into their own hands and taking physical control of the yard after administrators were brought in, the firm would most likely simply have went into liquidation. Instead, their action put pressure on the administrators to find a deal. It has also sent a message to their new employers, InfraStrata, that this is a workforce which won’t be pushed around.
Boris Johnson has sent his sympathies to Harland & Wolff workers over the threat to the shipyard but has said that ultimately its future rests upon a “commercial decision”. With mealy-mouthed words, he says he wants to develop industry, but he and other capitalist ideologues cannot – or dare not – conceive of an economic model which is driven by anything other than profits for a tiny elite.
The history of Northern Ireland is often present as simply being of two traditions - nationalism and unionism - in conflict with each other. Almost everything is painted as belonging to one or the other, including the shipyard. It is also true that most things do have a history tainted by sectarianism. But there is also another history, one which we see in the shipyards, across Belfast and across Northern Ireland - that is the labour tradition, where working-class people have stood together to fight in their common interests.