Scottish renewables wind-turbine platform manufacturing yard to ‘close within days’

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.

The BiFab wind-turbine platform manufacturing yard at at Arnish on the Isle of Lewis looks set to shutdown permanently within days.

BiFab currently employs 30 people – mostly self-employed sub-contractors –  at the yard, which is owned by the Scot-Govt. 

Just three months ago, a peak of 160 people were employed at Arnish as the yard completed its supply contract for the SSE-owned £2.6 billion Beatrice offshore wind farm development in the Moray Firth.

Crisis talks were held yesterday between union leaders, Western Isles Council and the Scot-Govt enterprise quango about the future of the island yard.

Next week the workforce will be reduced to fewer than 10 people and it is understood that all are expected to be gone by the end of February.

Bob McGregor, the Scotland organiser for the UNITE trade union, said: “The Scottish government’s intervention last year to provide a lifeline for this yard <and the BiFab site in Fife> was absolutely pivotal.

“We now need the same scale of intervention again by the <Scot> government to save these jobs.

“These yards are absolutely central to the creation of a viable renewables industry in Scotland. Surely that ambition can’t be allowed to die now?

A statement from management at Methil-based BIFab said: “As we approach the end of the current project – and no further work is currently secured beyond –  we are going through a natural ‘down-manning’ process and as such, through our statutory obligation we issue HR1 forms to notify the government of potential redundancies to permanent staff, where numbers proposed could exceed 20 employees.

“Issuing the HR1 notice is part of the collective consultation process to inform staff about potential planned redundancies and not a decision that redundancies will take place.

“This type of action is typical to previous positions we find ourselves in being a project orientated-type organisation.”

The BiFab crisis first arose last year in a dispute involving the company and the Dutch-owned contractor, Seaway Heavy Lifting (SHL) over a particular payment.

Unable to settle this debt, the Scottish Government eventually stepped in with a £15 million loan to support the firm to allow it to honour contracts and retain its workforce.

Last month, it was revealed that the company is now also being sued by its German business partner, EEW.

The Beatrice wind farm is being built by a Sino-Scottish-Scandinavian development consortium led by Perth-based utility SSE.

Management at the BiFab yards in Fife and Lewis – which were contracted to manufacture scores of platforms for offshore wind turbines in the £2.6 billion Beatrice wind farm in the Moray Firth – issued redundancy notices  earlier this weekto 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 2018.

Paul Wheelhouse, MSP
Paul Wheelhouse, MSP

Last night, Scottish Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse, MSP, sought to put political distance between the minority-SNP-led Scot-Govt and the Scottish industrial crisis by saying that contract-completion ‘de-manning’ is a routine ‘part of the private-sector manufacturing cycle’.

15 Feb 2018

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