BiFab: Redundancy notices a ‘devastating’ blow says MP

Redundancy notices are to be issued to workers at BiFab today. Pic: Jon Savage.
Redundancy notices are to be issued to workers at BiFab today. Pic: Jon Savage.

News of redundancy notices at BiFab has been described as ‘‘devastating’’ by Kirkcaldy’s MP, Lesley Laird.

The move took the cash-strapped yard one step closer to closure, with the first jobs going, possibly in May.

It comes just weeks after workers staged a massive rally and march to Holyrood to fight for the future of the yards in Burntisland and Leven, as well as the Isle of Lewis.

Ms Laird said negotiations with possible new investors were on-going, and a joint trades union meeting was planned to take place at Holyrood next week.

She said: ‘‘Everyone recognises that when the Scottish Government intervened it was a stay of execution and that, following the completion of the Beatrice contract, further work was needed to save the yards.

“This announcement increases the urgency for a successful outcome – both for the workforce and the supply chain – but it is imperative that scheduled work continues.’’

The Labour MP said securing more work was ‘‘vital to securing the long-term future of the yards’’

‘‘BiFab’s management team is working hard to achieve this,’’ she added. ‘‘“Negotiations with the Scottish Government and potential investors are ongoing and a joint trade union meeting is due to take place at Holyrood next week.

“BiFab is very much on the radar of both the Scottish and UK Governments and I’m optimistic that, if we all work together and stay focused, we will hopefully secure a positive outcome.”

Union representatives fear the yards could shut by the end of June.

Bob McGregor, Unite regional officer, said they were told by managers yesterday that redundancy notices are to be given to the core workforce today (Tuesday).

Mr McGregor said he expected 260 jobs to go with the redundancies to start in May: “BiFab notified us yesterday and it is one step closer to shutting the yards,” he said.

“We are hoping there will be some pressure to bring projects forward for the company to bridge the gap between the Beatrice contract finishing and a project in Kincardine - which BiFab have bid for - starting.

“So much has been done to save these yards until now. The workers there have fought for their future and it is difficult to believe that it can now be snatched away from them. The closures of these yards will turn these areas into an industrial graveyard. The prospect fills us with dismay.”

“We can’t say this is a total shock because work at the yard has been running down for weeks now. However, all the interested parties, the company, the contractors, the unions and the Scottish Government, given what has been done so far, must surely look to have an eleventh hour intervention which can do something to save these jobs.”

Mr McGregor said there was a possibility the timescales could be reversed if new contracts can be established.

He added: “We are still working hard to do everything we can to protect these yards.”

Economy Secretary Keith Brown said the government will offer practical help to those who will lose their jobs.

He said: “This will be hugely concerning for the workers affected and their families – and we stand ready to provide support through our Partnership Action for Continuing Employment (PACE) initiative. By providing skills development and employability support, PACE aims to minimise the time individuals affected by redundancy are out of work.

“Scottish Ministers have offered support to BiFab to allow work to continue on the contracts for the Beatrice offshore wind farm development through a loan facility, and have been fully focussed and working intensively to secure a long-term future for the company.”

He added: “Ministers recognise that more work remains to be done to secure the long term future of the company and are fully committed to offering support where possible to attract long term investment in this vital sector of the Scottish supply chain and economy.”

In a statement issued from the company by Iain Scrimger, business development manager at BiFab, he said senior management at the company were continuing to work with the Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise and trade union representatives to do everything possible to avoid redundancies.

He said: “However, as we approach the end of the current project – and no further work is currently secured beyond – BiFab is going through a natural down-manning process and as such, through our statutory obligation, we issue HR1 forms to notify the government of potential redundancies to permanent staff, where numbers proposed could exceed 20 employees.

“Issuing of the HR1 is part of the collective consultation process to inform staff about potential planned redundancies and not a decision that redundancies will take place.

“This type of action is typical to previous positions we find ourselves in being a project orientated type organisation.”

Mr Scrimger said a number of target projects remain under tender, both within the Renewables and Oil & Gas sectors, where further discussions continue in the hope to secure further work across each of the BiFab sites and maintain employment in the business beyond the Beatrice Offshore Windfarm project.

He added: “It is not under estimated that the timing of securing those projects is now critical as work is coming to an end of existing work, which is scheduled to be complete by June of this year.”