Harland and Wolff workers accept pay offer

Unite negotiates double digit pay increase at Belfast yard

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An industrial dispute at world famous shipbuilders, Harland and Wolff, has ended after the workforce voted to accept a significant pay increase.

Following a titanic struggle involving a strike ballot and threatened walkout workers have accepted a pay offer, which provides an increase of 13% for skilled trades and 10.5% for general operatives. 

Unite the union, which represents the majority of workers employed at Harland and Wolff, has confirmed that an industrial dispute over pay has been resolved after workers voted decisively to accept the improved pay offer. 

The pay offer amounts to an increase of 13 per cent for skilled trades and 10.5 per cent for semi-skilled, stores and general operatives. The deal will be backdated to the beginning of 2024. 

This pay rise comes on the back of a big pay increase last year, 14.2%, meaning Unite has improved pay for the shipyard workers by around 27% over the last two years.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said, “This inflation-beating pay increase is a big win for our members and has been won through negotiations on the basis of our union’s strength in the workplace.

“Yet again, it demonstrates the importance of workers being members of a strong union and having strong union structures. Unite is working hard to secure both pay and job security for our members at Harland and Wolff.”

As part of the deal, management committed to review the painter team worker categorisation from semi-skilled to skilled – a change that will see those who are qualified gain an additional 13.1 per cent. Unite continues to push for further improvements for other staff at the shipyard not covered by this deal.

Regional co-ordinating officer George Brash is the lead official for the workforce, he said, “We are glad to have successfully concluded these pay negotiations with Harland and Wolff. This pay award recognises the skills and commitment of our members and reflects the success of this company. 

“The total number of workers employed by Harland and Wolff in Belfast has increased in recent months due to the company’s success in bringing back ship manufacturing to the city. Unite remains focussed on securing a future for this historic industry for Northern Ireland.”

Unite member Robert ‘Rab’ Hamilton during the 2019 workers occupation. Rab sadly passed away recently.

Harland and Wolff only remains in Belfast due to a Unite campaign in 2019 which saw an 11 week occupation that successfully saved the shipyard and the highly skilled jobs it continues to provide.

By Keith Hatch