260 Scottish renewable jobs lost as Beatrice wind-farm platform manufacturer issues redundancy notices to workers

Nicola Sturgeon, Scottish First Minister, on the picket line with Bi-Fab workers in Fife over Beatrice wind farm wages dispute last year.
Nicola Sturgeon, Scottish First Minister, on the picket line with Bi-Fab workers in Fife over Beatrice wind farm wages dispute last year.

Scots trade union leaders at the BiFab marine engineering yards in Fife and Arnish on Lewis last night expressed ‘dismay’ at the possible closure of the yards.

Management at the yards – which are contracted to manufacture scores of platforms for offshore wind turbines in the £2.6 billion Beatrice wind farm in the Moray Firth – have issued redundancy notices to the core workforce, giving 45 days notice of the closure of the yards.

Some 260 jobs are to go by early summer with the possible closure of the yards completely by the end of June.

Bob McGregor, regional office for Unite in Scotland, said: “So much has been done to save these yards until now.

“The workers there have fought for their future and it is difficult to believe that it can now be snatched away from them. The closures of these yards will turn these areas into an industrial graveyard. The prospect fills us with dismay”

In November last year the BiFab yards were threatened with closure as the company appeared to be running out of money as a result of a payments dispute with a major sub-subcontractor on the Beatrice Wind farm contract for the Cromarty Firth.

The workers at BiFab occupied the yards and called for Scottish Government intervention to save them.  Last year, Scottish industry minister Keith Brown and then Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon eventually managed to broker a deal involving all the major contractors to the SSE-led developer consortium to save the yards.

However the Beatrice Wind farm contract is now coming to a close and BiFab is now running out of work.

There has also been open speculation that the yards may be taken over by a major Canadian concern.

There has been no official confirmation of these moves. There was no answer at the BiFab switchboard in Kirkcaldy, Fife, yesterday.

McGregor added: “We can’t say this is a total shock because work at the yard has been running down for weeks now.

“However all the interested parties, the company, the contractors, the unions and the Scottish Government, given what has been done so far, must surely look to have an eleventh hour intervention which can do something to save these jobs.”

BiFab management told the trades unions that the first redundancies would start in May this year and the closure would be completed by the end of June 2018.

A spokesman added: “These timescales can only be reversed if new contracts can be established for the yards.”

Labour’s shadow Scottish secretary and local MP Lesley Laird, said: “Securing future contracts is vital to securing the long-term future of the yards and BiFab’s workforce skills, not only for the benefit of local communities here in Fife and Arnish but in terms of Scotland’s wider industrial strategy in the renewables sector.”

Scottish Green MSPs John Finnie and Mark Ruskell urged the Scot-Govt to step up efforts to secure new orders for the BiFab marine engineering yards in Fife and on Lewis.

Ruskell said: “If we’re to reap the rewards of a low-carbon economy, we must ensure renewables are at the heart of energy policy with a commitment to zero carbon emissions by 2040 to help drive innovation and investment. I look forward to all parties and the enterprise agencies coming together to win the battle for BiFab.”

14 Feb 2018

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