BiFab: Closure would impact on every business in town

BiFab workers marching  on Holyrood in November (Pic: Jon Savage)
BiFab workers marching on Holyrood in November (Pic: Jon Savage)

In the end, the deal that won the Battle For BiFab turned out to be a stay of execution.

The determination of the workforce which saw them march in huge numbers down the Royal Mile to Holyrood before Christmas spurred a political intervention which staved off the threat of administration.

Bifab workers leave the Methil Yard after their shift (Pic: George McLuskie)

Bifab workers leave the Methil Yard after their shift (Pic: George McLuskie)

But, less than two months later, they reported for work to be handed the first wave of redundancy notices which could, ultimately, see the yards in Fife and the Isle of Lewis close permanently.

It’s a horrendous blow for the workers, the business and the town of Burntisland in particular.

Every trader in town will feel the impact as the first of the 260 BiFab workers take their leave in May.

From B&Bs to petrol stations where they fill up, to the takeaways where they get bacon rolls to the shops they use during breaks, the consequences will be measured in lost trade.

Money that won’t be coming back any time soon.

The Fife economy will also suffer if it loses one of its giants – a business many hold in high regard and have huge support for.

Lesley Laird MP described the redundancy announcement as ‘‘devastating.’’

It will be.

The notices are one step closer to the yards closing their gates.

To survive, BiFab needs more work.

It’s a race against the clock – there is talk of the yard closing by June.

It is said that the company is on the radar of both the Scottish and UK Government, but there is very limited time for politicians and officers to come up with a Plan B to keep the gates open and the workers in jobs.

Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister, hinted as much when she announced a deal had been brokered to avoid a slide into administration last year.

She said at the time: “There is every reason to be optimistic, but that doesn’t mean there is not a lot of work that needs to be done including investment that needs to be done to secure it.”

That came on the back of a 2016 annual report which painted a picture of good health – contracts to the value of £120m and revenue of £100m.

BiFab was working on the Beatrice project, providing 26 substructures and two more for transformers for the major offshore project in the Moray Firth.

It was to be delivered in blocks – ten last August, and the remaining 16 in April with work across the yards in Burntisland, Methil and Arnish in Lewis.

It was seen as ‘‘a base load’’ of work which kept the yards ticking over – the company’s 2016 annual report spoke of a ‘‘strong’’ renewables order book.

It said Beatrice was ‘‘a platform to work from to strengthen its position and create other opportunities for large scale infrastructure offshore wind farm projects.’’

The early weeks of 2018 would suggest that time, and work, have both run out.

Union leaders spoke of their dismay at the news of redundancies, and the bleak future that came with the formal notices.

But they have vowed to fight on. It isn’t over until there are padlocks on the gates.

Bob McGregor, Unite regional officer, hopes a deal can be done to keep the gates open. He said: ‘‘All the interested parties, the company, the contractors, the unions and the Scottish Government must surely look to have an eleventh hour intervention which can do something to save these jobs. So much has been done to save these yards until now.

‘‘The workers there have fought for their futures 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.’’

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