Known as Bi-Fab, the Fife-based firm is facing the possibility of administration – with the likely loss of hundreds of jobs (including some 40 apprentices) in the kingdom and on the Isle of Lewis at its Arnish yard – due to a wind-farm wages dispute.
The firm supports more than 1,000 skilled jobs in Fife, the Isle of Lewis and in the wider Scottish economy, and is a key strategic player in the Scottish renewable energy sector.
Bi-Fab bosses said the company was in a “critical cash position” on Monday and would go bankrupt.
It was supplying the Breatrice Wind Farm, a major renewable energy project in Moray Firth in the North Sea. B-iFab has completed 77 percent of the work for Norwegian-based Seaway Heavy Lifting, but has been paid for less than 40 percent of it.
Bi-Fab is making the sub-sea platforms for the Beatrice wind turbine farm in the Moray Firth being developed by Perth-based utility SSE – which also owns a 15% stake in the manufacturer.
The £100 million wind-turbine platform support fabrication contract was awarded to BiFab by Seaway Heavy Lifting. The first 10 platforms were due for delivery in August 2017 with a second batch of 16 due for delivery in April 2018.
MSP Jackie Baillie, the interim leader of the Labour group in Holyrood, said: “The Scottish Energy Strategy prioritises renewables. This is an industry where more work is expected and BiFab could be at the forefront of delivering that infrastructure.
“It cannot be right that one of Scotland’s biggest sources of renewable jobs is facing administration while renewables are supposed to be a key priority for Scotland’s economy.
“That is one of the key reasons that the Scottish Government has a significant interest in BiFab, through Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise.
“Workers need a cast iron guarantee which will allow them to continue to work and prepare for future renewables work. The Scottish Government should commit to providing financial support so that the company can remain operational and the jobs are secured and the work remains in Scotland.
Earlier today, Bi-Fab workers rallied outside the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood for a demonstration organised by Unite, GMB and the STUC (pictured, above).
At a meeting with Unite and GMB officials, workers unanimously voted for a work-in.Alan Ritchie, a GMB official, said, “The workforce will be maintaining the gates, nothing will come in or out of the yard without the joint shop steward’s approval.”
The work-in also prevents administrators unilaterally seizing the factory’s assets.
GMB Scotland Secretary Gary Smith said: “This march sends a very clear message to Seaway Heavy Lifting (SHL) and (energy giant) SSE – nothing is leaving Scotland. This work started in Scotland and it’s going to be finished in Scotland.”
John Swinney, Deputy Scottish First Minister said the Scot-Govt had been “immersed in discussions” with BiFab, Dutch-owned contractor Seaway Heavy Lifting (SHL), trade unions and the UK Government since the issue emerged last week.
Neither SSE nor SHL have replied to requests to comment.
Here are three simple suggestions for the Scottish Energy and Industry Ministers:
Contact Bi-Fab’s banks to help arrange a temporary bridging loan
Contact Perth-based utility SSE to get the temporary bridging loan on even better terms
‘Persuade’ SSE to impose binding arbitration on SHL and Bi-Fab to resolve the dispute