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Wednesday, November 10, 1999 Published at 06:52 GMT

UK: Northern Ireland

Talks over shipyard future continue

Lack of new orders while problems with drill ship contract continue

Talks continued all day in London on Thursday in an effort to reach agreement in the dispute which threatens the future of the Belfast shipyard, Harland and Wolff.

The discussions centred on a deal to complete two drillships ordered by the US firm Global Marine.

Union representiaves also had meetings with the shipyard management and the oil company.

Harland and Wolff claims that its owed £133m by Global Marine for extra work carried out on the two oil exploration vessels.

Union official Jackie Nicholls: "Critical situation at Harland and Wolff with no orders"
The American company offered to pay the wages of workers who walked out of the yard on Tuesday but this offer was described as a "cheap propoganda stunt" in a statement issued by Harland and Wolff.

The shipyard had previously confirmed to trade union leaders that wages for fortnightly paid workers would be paid until the end of November.

Jackie Nicholls of the Manufacturing, Science and Finance Union, which will make its presence felt at the meeting, said he was fearful for the future.

"I have serious concerns for it and that's the reason why the delegation want to go to London. We have been told by Harland and Wolff that we may not be given the time or place where the meeting is taking place in London.

"But we're prepared to go. Because it is time that we faced both parties together."

No response to claim

At issue is who should pay for a multi-million pound overspend on the building of two deep-sea drill ships -- after Global Marine insisted during construction on wide-ranging changes to the job specification.

Details of the claim have been compiled by a leading firm of consultants.

The shipyard said the claim had been submitted on 29 October and that it had received no formal response to it.

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