Unions angered by BiFab job losses on ‘dark day’ for economy

The Battle for BiFab - workers marched on Holyrood at the height of closure fears. Picture: Jon Savage
The Battle for BiFab - workers marched on Holyrood at the height of closure fears. Picture: Jon Savage
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Trade unions expressed fears about the future of Scotland’s BiFab marine energy yards when it emerged that its 1,400 strong workforce has dwindled to just seven part-time posts.

Redundancy notices issued to staff at the yards in Fife and Lewis earlier this year have expired on what the GMB described as a “dark day” for the Scottish economy.

Last year a core workforce of 400 individuals were backed up by a further 1,000 contractors when the yards were busy with the Beatrice offshore wind project.

By the end of April this year the workforce had been reduced to 150 workers when the company was taken over by new owners DF Barnes, the subsidiary of Canadian company JV Driver.

The new owners invested heavily in BiFab to stave off closure in a rescue deal that also saw the Scottish Government become a minority shareholder.

Last night the new owners said they would work hard to secure new projects for the yards.

GMB said the expiry of the redundancy notices meant just seven staff were left at the yards to oversee maintenance and security on a part time basis. GMB added that 12 senior managers from the original BiFab business would be retained by new owners DF Barnes / JV Driver.

GMB Scotland Organiser Alan Ritchie said: “We were promised a bright future by the new owners but the cold, hard truth is that these yards are now closed until new orders can be secured. There is also anger and resentment that some of the people responsible for the demise of BiFab have had their futures secured, while the workers who made the sacrifices to complete the Beatrice order have been steadily shown the door. Jam tomorrow is of no use to our members and their families. This is a dark day for Fife and Lewis, and for the Scottish economy.

“Whether there is any light in the weeks and months to come remains to be seen.”

Labour finance spokeswoman Jackie Baillie said: ”BiFab workers are highly skilled and the Scottish Government should be doing everything it can to protect these jobs – but instead these skills are at a real risk of being lost for good.

“Protecting BiFab’s workforce should have been at the top of SNP minister Derek Mackay’s in-tray, but despite the Scottish Government having a stake in BiFab, he’s already failing workers and communities.

“Derek Mackay must immediately outline what steps he will take to ensure that these jobs are protected and what prospects lie ahead for future contracts.”

Sean Power, a vice-president of DF Barnes, said the company’s aimed to return the yards to full production. 
Jason Fudge of DF Barnes said: “DF Barnes is working tirelessly to secure new contracts for BiFab. That is what is needed for the employees. That is our focus “