Local politicians have expressed concern for the future of workers at BiFab following news of potential redundancies at the troubled engineering firm.
The move has taken the cash-strapped yard one step closer to closure, with unions suggesting the first jobs are going, possibly in May.
Fife Labour MSP Claire Baker said: “This is very concerning news from BiFab and a worrying time for the workforce and their families.
“This is a crucial time for the yards and notwithstanding this worrying announcement, we have a tight timescale to work to secure contracts for the yards and keep jobs.
“This may be a time for creative thinking from Government as every option must be explored to secure a future. The workforce have shown themselves to be highly skilled, committed and determined and we must strain every sinew to support them.”
Kirkcaldy SNP MSP David Torrance said this morning’s news was ‘highly regrettable and extremely worrying’ describing it as a further blow to the workers, their families and the local community.
He said: “I have committed my ongoing support to Union representative, Michael Sullivan, and will assist in any way I can to ensure that additional work is found to bridge the impending gap between contracts.
“The complex structures produced by the highly skilled workforce at BiFab play a vital role in the renewable sector and I believe the timely completion of the current contract will further strengthen the company’s position in the renewable sector.
“I have also contacted Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy, Paul Wheelhouse and have been given assurances that avenues for additional work to bridge this gap, and potential external investors for the yard, are being actively pursued. The Scottish Government also remain in constant communication with BiFab management and the Manufacturing Advisory Service.”
He added: “It remains my absolute priority to ensure workers, and the local community, are provided with long term financial security.”
Meanwhile, Scottish Green MSPs John Finnie and Mark Ruskell have today written to the government’s economic development agencies urging them to step up efforts to secure new orders in light of warnings that the BiFab marine engineering yards in Fife and on Lewis could close by the end of June.
Finnie and Ruskell, who represent the Western Isles and Fife, are asking the enterprise agencies to attend a cross-party meeting of MSPs to discuss what actions can be taken to support BiFab and the wider offshore renewables supply chain.
Mark Ruskell MSP, energy spokesperson for the Scottish Greens, said: “Scottish Enterprise and HIE must step up their engagement to ensure maximum support for the BiFab workforce both in the short-term and long-term.
“It’s not in the renewable industry’s interests for BiFab to go down, so all angles need to be covered in attempts to safeguard these valuable jobs in Fife, on Lewis and in the wider sector across Scotland.
“If we’re to reap the rewards of a low-carbon economy, we must ensure renewables are at the heart of energy policy with a commitment to zero carbon emissions by 2040 to help drive innovation and investment.
“I look forward to all parties and the enterprise agencies coming together to win the battle for BiFab.”
This afternoon GMB Scotland said that there is ‘still hope’ for troubled fabrication firm BiFab, but that ‘time is of the essence’ to deliver critical investment and contracts that would save hundreds of jobs.
Talks between the Scottish Government and potential new investors remain on-going and trade union representatives will meet with the Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Jobs and Fair Work, Keith Brown MSP, next week.
GMB is also reiterating its call for the Scottish Government to work with the BiFab trade unions to ensure that Scottish manufacturing yards can properly compete for renewable infrastructure projects in future, helping to deliver more growth and stability across the struggling sector.
GMB Scotland Organiser Alan Ritchie said: “The battle for BiFab continues. All is not lost and there is still hope but time is of the essence.
“Next week, we have a crunch meeting with the Scottish Government and thereafter we will have a better understanding about new investment coming into the yards and the long term future.
“We have always been clear that our yards should not be struggling and what we need is an industrial strategy to end the feast and famine in contract work that plagues our manufacturing sector.
“But the immediate challenge is straightforward: All parties involved need to pull together again to defend these workers and their communities because letting them go under is not an option.”
Mr Ritchie added: “Nobody should be under any illusions about how tough this is on our members and their families but everything that can be done to secure the future of Arnish, Burntisland and Methil is being done.”
While Unite’s regional officer Bob McGregor said: “These yards are absolutely central to the creation of a viable renewables industry in Scotland. Surely that ambition can’t be allowed to die now?
“It’s clear that time is running out. Surely it’s not beyond the company, its partners, the unions and the Government to seek out a solution to the latest crisis brought on by a lack of orders for new work. That’s the only way we can avoid these areas being transformed into an industrial graveyard.”
A spokesman for BiFab said it was going through a “natural down-manning process” as the company approaches the end of work on the Beatrice Offshore Wind Farm project.
It has warned this could also mean redundancies among permanent staff.
BiFab has informed workers about potential planned redundancies, but said that no decisions have been taken.
The firm said it had notified the government, public agencies and its workforce because the potential number of redundancies was a figure of more than 20.