11th October 1895

Strike by Engineers at Harland & Wolff Shipyard

Three thousand engineers and their assistants working in Harland & Wolff's shipyard went on strike to demand higher wages.

The shipyards employed 12,000 in Belfast and were one of the main sources of employment for adult men. With a constant influx of migrants into Belfast from the surrounding countryside, employers could easily replace the unskilled and semi-skilled workers. This section of the workforce found it very difficult to negotiate better wages and conditions with their employers and they received significantly less pay than skilled workers.

The 1890s saw a rapid growth in trade union membership in Ireland, with 30 unions founded between 1889 and 1891. The National Amalgamated Union of Labour (NAUL), the main union for unskilled and semi-skilled workers in the shipyard, began to organise the labourers in the early 1890s.

The strike of 1895 took place in Belfast and in Clydeside (Glasgow). In Belfast, the management of the shipyards refused to concede to the majority of the strikers' demands. The strike ended in December with failure for the unions, the employers did not give in and their workers were forced to return to work.

Labour Movement, Industry, Shipbuilding
Two men hydraulic riveting on the main deck of the SS Oceanic.
National Library of Ireland [M25/J/10]