Hundreds of BiFab workers have marched through Edinburgh in a bid to save their yards – and their jobs.
The demonstration was followed by a rally at the Scottish Parliament.
The workers were joined by their families and supporters who turned out in strength to back the ‘Battle For BiFab’ campaign.
The rally was designed to keep the issue in the public eye – and highlight that 1400 Scottish jobs are now at risk unless BiFab can resolve its critical cash flow problems which centre around a dispute with a Dutch contractor.
A spokesman for GMB Scotland said around 1000 workers turned out on Thursday morning to march from Johnston Terrace down the Royal Mile.
He said: “This is the biggest union demonstration we have seen in recent times and it is a reflection of the determination of the BiFab workers to protect their livelihoods. This effect should also be reflected in the corridors of power. To let this company go under is not an option.”
Colin Anthony (50) has been working as a dresser at the BiFab yard in Burntisland for 25 years. He led the marchers down the Royal Mile along with his six-year-old son Jay.
He said safeguarding the yard’s future is not only vital for the workers and their families, but also for the local community.
He said: “There has been a great turnout today and it is important a resolution is found not just for the workforce, but also for the people in Burntisland. The workers spend their wages in the pubs, the cafes and the shops - these places all benefit from BiFab. If the yard shuts, it will have a major impact on the wider community. We will certainly be feeling the pinch this Christmas if the yard does shut, but we are all hoping to get this resolved.”
William Duke is also employed at the Burntisland yard along with his son-in-law Douglas Fagan.
William, who has been employed as a storeman at the site for 16 years, said: “It is important that we show solidarity, we have all come together to save our jobs. Burntisland is a small town and the workers spend money in the shops on their way to work so they will also suffer.”
Douglas added: “The turnout today has been fantastic – it is absolutely amazing the numbers who have come here for this. I have been working at BiFab for eight years, I have a five year old child and a wife to provide for and can’t believe this is happening especially in the run up to Christmas. We are going on holiday next week and I could be coming back to no job. There are a few men I know who have young children and they are very worried.”
Addressing the rally of workers outside the Scottish Parliament, Keith Brown MSP, Scottish cabinet secretary for the economy, jobs and fair work, said he was impressed by how quickly the march and rally had been pulled together: “I am not going to talk about figures, except for one,” he said.
“The one figure that is most important is the 1400 employees whose futures are at stake in this and we have driven that home to everyone involved.
“I have been involved in meetings with Paul Wheelhouse, minister for business, and the First Minister and that figure is at the forefront of our minds. The priorities expressed by the unions are the same ones as ours - to secure the long term future of BiFab beyond the contract which is at the centre of this dispute.
“There will be no stone left unturned as we work together to get the right solution and secure the future of this company.”
Pat Rafferty, Unite Scottish Secretary, said: “There is a fantastic show of strength here today and together we are stronger and together we will save these yards. We know from the last few days that this is going to be a tough fight.
“The jobs at these yards in Methil, Burntisland and Lewis are our jobs – Scottish jobs – and we will fight tooth and nail to protect them. It is your actions today that are keeping these yards open.”
STUC General Secretary, Grahame Smith, said: “It is beyond belief that the jobs and livelihoods of 1400 BiFab workers and the future of the yards where they work, are under threat because of a contractual dispute between the company and its customer Dutch contractor SHL.
“There is no doubt that there is a viable future for BiFab’s current yards. There is a highly skilled and dedicated workforce, currently working without pay to complete current orders, and the prospect of future orders from offshore wind developments and oil and gas platform decommissioning.
“SSE, as the leading partner in the Beatrice Offshore Windfarm project and SHL, its subcontractor, urgently need to do what is necessary to sort this dispute, to ensure the workforce is paid, their jobs saved and a future secured for the BiFab yards.”
David Ross, co-leader of Fife Council, said: “This is a fantastic campaign you are mounting and Fife Council will be standing right behind you. I have been in touch with the Scottish Government and the UK Government and Fife Council will be doing everything it can to impress just how important BiFab and all of its work is to the Fife economy.”
He added: “Keep up the fight, we are there with you.”
Scottish Conservative Spokesperson & Shadow Minister for Local Government, Alexander Stewart MSP was outside the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood to demonstrate his support for the BiFab workforce.
The Fife and Mid-Scotland MSP said: “I am fearful of the job situation at BiFab and the future of its employees. However, I pay tribute to the workforce, as I believe that they are still prepared to work unpaid until the situation is resolved – and they don’t have to do this, especially in the midst of the climate they are currently working under.
“I note also that both Keith Brown MSP and Paul Wheelhouse MSP have spoken with UK Government Ministers about what can be achieved together in ensuring a successful outcome for the company and all its staff and I hope will work constructively with them to achieve a positive outcome.”
Meanwhile, Kirkcaldy MP Lesley Laird, Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, met Greg Clark and Claire Perry, Secretary of State and Minister of State, respectively, for the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy on Wednesday.
This afternoon she said: “I’m encouraged by the positive way in which the UK and Scottish Governments are trying to resolve the situation.
“Discussions are ongoing with key stakeholders, and I am pleased to see that the trade unions have now been engaged.
“It’s encouraging that a number of opportunities are being looked at. These are very difficult and uncertain times for BiFab workers and I would like to take the opportunity to commend them for their professionalism and commitment to securing their future. The high turnout at the march in Edinburgh this morning shows the level of support being demonstrated for them.”
Ms Laird added: “It’s in all parties’ interests that an early and positive solution is found for BiFab and its loyal workforce.”