Scottish Parliament to hear BiFab’s bid for level playing field

BiFab workers march on Holyrood in a bid to save their jobs (Pic: Jon Savage)
BiFab workers march on Holyrood in a bid to save their jobs (Pic: Jon Savage)

BiFab’s hopes of landing vital new work will be raised at the Scottish Parliament today.

The Scottish Parliament’s economy, energy and fair work committee is holding a one-off roundtable evidence session on the future of the company, which has yards in Burntisland and Methil as well as Arnish in Stornoway, and the Scottish supply chain for offshore wind.

Union leaders hope it is the first step to levelling the renewables playing field for BiFab after the company lost out on contracts to win the fabrication of 100 turbine jackets and five floating platforms on the Moray East and Kincardine offshore wind farm projects.

Instead, the £2.8 billion of work went to yards in the UAE, Belgium, Spain and the north east of England.

Concern for the future of BiFab has grown since new owners, DF Barnes, who will attend the session at Holyrood, took over.

Initial hopes of recovery faded when redundancy notices were issued last May.

With an empty orders book, the yard, which once employed hundreds of men, dwindled to just a handful.

The company has said it is in it for the long haul, but the failure to land the latest turbine contracts has sparked claims BiFab is being snubbed, despite the Scottish Government being a minority shareholder following the most recent rescue package which pulled the business back from the brink of closure after workers staged a mass demonstration at Holyrood in November 2017.

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Today, joint trade unions, GMB and Unite, will tell MSPs that Scotland needs to move with “pace and purpose” on an industrial strategy if it want manufacturers like BiFab to win it’s share of jobs and value from billion £ offshore wind projects.

In a joint statement the Scottish secretaries of GMB and Unite, Gary Smith and Pat Rafferty, said: “The First Minister has shared our concerns that manufacturers like BiFab are not operating on a level playing field and the committee roundtable should be the first step in a collaborative effort to change this.

“When the BiFab yards in Arnish and Fife were faced with closure before Christmas 2017, we said that everyone needed to come together and battle for BiFab.

“In doing so, we ensured the work on the Beatrice contract was completed and that new ownership for the yards was found.

“We also understood that returning the yards to full capacity would be a long and hard process, and while the returns from the Moray East and Kincardine projects are bitter pills to take, its surfaced the realities of what we need to do if we want to compete and win major contracts.”

The union leaders said BiFab was playing catch up “ in a field of established and tough competition” but added: “If we want to ensure that Scotland gets its share of jobs and value from our own offshore wind projects, then we need to move with pace and purpose on an industrial strategy - starting today.”