70 posts under threat at BiFab

BiFab in Methil
BiFab in Methil

A bleak summer could be set to continue for Methil’s offshore fabrication yard, with the issue of more notices of potential redundancy.

The possible job losses at BiFab, affecting Levenmouth and the company’s other Fife yard at Burntisland, number around 70 in total and could take effect at the end of this month – taking the workforce down to around 150.

The yard has the potential and the skill set is there, but we are running the risk of losing that in Scotland

The firm also heard recently it had lost out on another major order – continuing a worrying trend of work going overseas, despite the Scottish Government’s backing for Scottish yards.

The work, for the Buchan Deep site, off Peterhead, which would have sustained BiFab for a year, is going instead to a yard in Spain.

The firm is now pinning its hopes on securing at least part of a major contract for the Beatrice project in the outer Moray Firth.

Tendering is already u nder way – but Bifab won’t know until the end of this year if it has been successful, meaning it will have to survive for several months on very meagre rations.

Despite the gloom, however, bosses say they are still actively pursuing work, and are are keeping a positive and optimistic outlook.

A meeting took place in Edinburgh last week with First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, featuring BiFab’s managing director, John Robertson, operations director Martin Adam and a deputation from the Unite and GMB trade unions.

Mr Adam said the meeting had gone “as well as could be expected” and people were at least listening now to the company’s pleas for “ level playing field” over competitive tendering.

The regular loss of contracts to overseas firms which seemed to be able to offer massively lower prices was deeply frustrating for BiFab, said Mr Adam.

“The yard has the potential and the skill set is there, but we are running the risk of losing that in Scotland,” he added.

BiFab wanted very much to see a viable home-based industry, but Britain needed more than one fabrication yard like it, added Mr Adam. Employers, employees and politicians had to work together for a realistic industry in Scotland.

Union bosses feared that, if contracts were not awarded soon to BiFab, its yards could be mothballed and skilled jobs lost forever to the industry, while damaging the Scottish economy.

With BiFab’s current workforce at around 220, HR1 forms were issued recently to around 70 employees, covering office workers and a range of tradesmen.

“It’s a massive, massive jump in numbers,” reflected Mr Adam.

The yard remained hopeful that it may win work from SSE Renewables for the Beatrice Project, which involved 84 jacket structures weighing around 800 tonnes each.

Success with that contract would put BiFab in “survival mode”, said Mr Adam, but they knew European competition would again be fierce.

Meanwhile, Levenmouth’s expertise was underlined with the successful completion days ago of a quarters and utilities platform for GDF Suez.

“It’s a very high standard module and I am very impressed with the way our workers pulled together to get that job done,” said Mr Adam.