Dark day for Bifab workers as yards ‘effectively close’
After a courageous campaign to save BiFab by the labour movement, and a last minute deal by the Scottish Government to secure new ownership, hundreds of staff have been made redundant.
BiFab had already suffered two near death experiences in the past year. When it seemed like the yards would close last November, trade unions GMB and Unite mobilised hundreds to march on Holyrood to demand intervention by the government. Then, this April, when the whole company almost fell through, the Scottish Government helped broker an agreement with Canadian firm DF Barnes, through their subsidiary JV Driver.
Unfortunately, the new owners immediately began a campaign of massive redundancies. They have retained only seven staff out of the 1400 workers formerly employed at the plants. And those retained have only been given part time contracts to oversee maintenance of the equipment.
With talk of a new Scottish Public Sector Energy company on the horizon, will the Scottish Government step in to provide orders themselves? So far they have been eerily quiet. Two out of three of the yards are publicly owned and in the hands of Scottish Enterprise, though this fact is buried deep in the organisation's internal documents.
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.”
Scottish Labour's Shadow Cabinet Secretary for the Economy, Jackie Baillie called on the Scottish Government to do more, saying that:
“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.”