Unions chiefs to hold Bi-Fab jobs crisis summit today with Scot-Govt Industry Minister

The BiFab yard at Arnish.
The BiFab yard at Arnish.

Leaders of the Unite and GMB trade unions in Scotland are to meet Scottish Industry Minister Keith Brown, MSP, today, in a crisis summit in the battle to save up to 1,400 jobs at the Bi-Fab energy infrastructure maker.

Pat Rafferty, Unite Scottish secretary, and Gary Smith, the leader of the GMB union in Scotland, want the Scot-Govt to ‘pull out all the stops’ to help the Fife-based manufacturer over a cashflow crisis caused over a commercial dispute between Bi-Fab and Dutch-owned contractor Seaway Heavy Lifting not paying for contract work already completed.

The Bi-Fab contract is for the construction of 25 turbine wind platforms in the Moray Firth for the Perth-based utility SSE, which owns a 15% equity stake in Bi-Fab.

Pat Rafferty said: “As far as we can see Bi-Fab is being held to ransom by the main contractor.

“It beggars belief that 1,400 jobs are now in jeopardy over who owes how many millions of pounds to whom. The workers have taken a courageous stand to save these jobs.

“The Scottish Government must match that commitment by doing whatever it takes to safeguard the future of the yards.”

Bi-Fab operates two yards – at Methil in Fife and at Arnish on the Isle of Lewis.

Rafferty added: “This is a Scottish contract for a Scottish company sponsored by the Scottish government. And it looks as if the whole project is about to come crashing down, and with it 1,400 jobs – due to a financial dispute instigated by SHL. There’s too much at stake for us to stand by and watch this happen.”

Martin Adam, BiFab managing director, said: “For clarity, it should be noted that the company is not currently in administration and the directors remain hopeful that a solution can be reached to secure the future of the business and the workforce.”

Kirkcaldy MSP David Torrance (SNP) last night called on the Scottish Government to leave no stone unturned in securing the future of jobs at the engineering firm BiFab, following the company’s announcement that it was on the verge of appointing administrators.

Torrance, a former GMB shop steward, commended the workforce for their planned “work-in” as a clear sign of their commitment to the survival and success of the company. He said:

“Scotland needs firms like BiFab to thrive if we’re to make the most of Scotland’s renewable potential at a critical time for the industry.

“We need to have the right engineering skills and fabrication capacity in place to deliver on our ambitions in tackling climate change, to grow Scotland’s economy and create more sustainable jobs in the sector.
 
“There is no doubt that the Scottish Government is serious about securing a future for BiFab, is already knocking heads together and will fight hard to protect the jobs in Fife and the Western Isles.”

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

15 Nov 2017

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