Sturgeon steps in to save Bi-Fab from closure – for now

An agreement has been reached that will lift the immediate threat of administration from Fife-based renewable energy engineering fabrication firm BiFab.

The Scottish Government said that it will, if necessary, make available a commercial loan facility to BiFab to enable work continue on its £100 million contract for 26 platforms for the turbine towers in Beatrice offshore windfarm in the Moray Firth.

Two weeks ago, the company announced its intention to go into Administration as it no longer had cash to pay workers’ wages following a dispute over late payments for the contract, which sparked a work-in at the Fife yard and a protest march on Holyrood by hundreds of workers in their ‘battle to save Bi-Fab’ (pictured, above).

A financial package to complete the contract has been provided by Seaway Heavy Lifting, Perth-based utility SSE and the partners to the Beatrice Offshore Windfarm project, JCE Offshore. 

The commercial agreement will see Bi-Fab receive payments to alleviate immediate cash flow issues enabling the threat of administration to be lifted and ensuring the full funding of the Beatrice contract.

The agreement follows talks between Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon with Bi-Fab, Seaway Heavy Lifting, SSE – which has a 15% equity stake in Bi-Fab, Siemens, and the partners in the Beatrice Offshore Windfarm project. 

She also met with Unite and the GMB to discuss the agreement and ministers will remain in close discussion with BiFab regarding longer term prospects for the company and the prospect of future contracts. 

But Sturgeon accepts that work remains to be done to secure the long term future of Bi-Fab and its 1,400-strong workforce in Fife and the Isle of Lewis.

She said: “All companies including Bi-Fab have had to take difficult decisions to secure this outcome.

“While this deal lifts the immediate threat of administration, we recognise that there is a lot of work still to do to secure the long term position. We will continue to work with Bi-Fab, the trade unions and industry partners to identify ways to secure the long term future of renewables manufacturing on these sites.

“I am pleased that we have been able to broker a commercial agreement that lifts the threat of administration from Bi-Fab and allows work on the current contract to continue. 

“Over the last seven days we have worked to ensure all partners understood the urgency of the position BiFab found themselves in and the part they could play in relieving the financial pressure on the company.  Seaway Heavy Lifting and SSE in particular have chosen to back B-iFab today to complete their contract and that is a real vote of confidence in the company and the workforce. 

“I know that this has been an anxious time for people employed at BiFab, as well as their families and the wider communities of Burntisland, Methil and Arnish and the trade unions have ensured that the importance of this company was made clear to all companies involved.”

WHAT WE SAID LAST WEEK

COMMENT:

Here are two suggestions for the Scottish Energy Minister:

  • 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

20 Nov 2017

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