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It’s possible to see why shipbuilding left these isles

The embattled shipyard that built the Titanic is facing the threat of strikes over plans to force workers to come in on Fridays.

Members of the GMB union at Harland & Wolff’s Belfast shipyard overwhelmingly voted for industrial action on Monday, amid a backlash against proposals to extend their working hours.

It is understood that managers are seeking to move away from a four-day week to a mandatory five-day one as the amount of work at the shipyard increases.

The yard is trying to refinance. It’s not obvious that it will be able to do so – and therefore will go bust.

But the plan for longer hours has sparked outrage among workers, who currently receive overtime pay for working Fridays under arrangements secured by unions decades ago.

But they’re willing to strike over overtime on Fridays.

10 thoughts on “It’s possible to see why shipbuilding left these isles”

  1. Old joke.

    Why does a Yorkshire miner work four days a week?

    Because he can’t make ends meet on three.

    Possibly also why “going out evening” is Thursday, not Friday in Sheffield, the urban legend thereof being that if you are going to have a hangover do it on work time.

  2. From what I can see, they work a 37 hour / 4 day week at the moment.
    Essentially what management are asking for are more hours for less money., ie a pay cut.
    Now maybe they ought to compromise if the flip side is that the company goes bust and they all lose their jobs. But I can’t see that they are being totally unreasonable.

  3. In Sheffield, Thursday was also half-day closing so you had the afternoon for leisure, socialising, and drinking.

  4. My father used to explain to me how the antics of the unions in the Glasgow shipyards would mean that there would be no jobs for the men’s sons.

    He thought the unions were quite mad, behaving as if there were some strange racial advantage the Glaswegians had as shipbuilders so that the Japanese and so on could never compete.

    The newspapers were not of like mind, suggesting that the Glasgow yards could survive because of their “tradition” which I suppose was a mealy-mouthed word for racial advantage.

  5. How many hours/week of straight time (not overtime) are they proposing to workers?

    BlokeInBrum said 37hrs/wk at 4 days/week now. Is the proposal to the workers the weekly straignht time pay the same for the proposed additional hours worked. Better put, what is the hourly rate now & that proposed?


  6. I come from a Derbyshire mining village and even back in the 1950s a number of men (single usually) would only work weekends (Saturday, time and half, Sunday double time).

  7. The shipyard are a part of a consortium with Navantia to build new support ships for the Navy. At a guess the GMB think the bad press from building Royal Navy ships in Spain is enough that they will pay up.

    In other words, ‘Nice shipyard you’ve got there, shame if something was to happen to it…’

  8. In other words, ‘Nice shipyard you’ve got there, shame if something was to happen to it…’

    If the company goes bust, whether thanks to the strikes or incompetence, can’t someone just buy the yard and hire a new non-unionised workforce?

  9. If it was the cost of operating the yard, the hiring of more people and maxing out the premises this way to take advantage of the extra business would be very simple. So what’s the holdup?

    Looks to me like the lionshare of the profit is syphoned into the govt. coffers as taxes/paperwork etc, to the point of the shipyard no longer being viable, no matter how many orders it’ll get — the investment no longer makes sense unless you can strongarm the workers into working more for less money because that’s all that is left to ‘optimise’.

    I think the best thing is to buy the ships from locations that have a better financial and fiscal setup, the quality and service will be better and the chances are that your ship will be built without the yard going bankrupt in the middle.

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