Highlands & Islands

BiFab warns staff of potential redundancies

Worker at BiFab in Methil Image copyright PA
Image caption BiFab operates yards in Fife and the Western Isles

Engineering firm BiFab has notified the Scottish government of the potential for redundancies among its workforce.

The Unite union has warned that 260 workers could lose their jobs at yards operated by the company in Fife and Arnish on Lewis.

BiFab said it was going through a "natural down-manning process" as it approached 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 had been taken.

The Scottish government said it has been "fully focused and working intensively" to secure the company's long-term future.

'Absolutely pivotal'

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.

The company's work manufacturing components for the Beatrice Offshore Wind Farm at Arnish, near Stornoway, is due to come to an end within weeks. Most of those at Arnish are agency workers.

BiFab employs 30 people at the yard, which is owned by Highlands and Islands Enterprise.

The engineering firm also operates yards at Methil and Burntisland in Fife.

Unite has urged government action to help BiFab.

The union's regional officer Bob McGregor said: "The Scottish government's intervention last year to create a lifeline for these yards was absolutely pivotal.

"We need the same scale of intervention now led by the government to save these jobs.

"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?"

GMB Scotland organiser Alan Ritchie vowed the battle for BiFab would continue.

He said: "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."

'Devastating news'

In a statement, the company said: "BiFab senior management continue to work with Scottish government, Scottish Enterprise and trade union representatives to do everything possible to avoid redundancies within the business.

"However, as we approach the end of the current project, and no further work is currently secured beyond, BiFab are 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."

It added: "This type of action is typical to previous positions we find ourselves in being a project orientated type organisation."

BiFab said it was working to try and secure more work on projects in the renewable energy and oil and gas sectors.

In November, a rescue package was brokered by the company with its business partners and the Scottish government to ward off an immediate threat of going into administration.

Lesley Laird, Labour MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, said the latest development was "devastating news" for BiFab workers and their families.

She said: "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."

Scottish Green MSPs John Finnie and Mark Ruskell have written to the Scottish government's economic development agencies urging them to step up efforts to help secure new orders for the yards.

'Fully committed'

Business, Innovation and Energy Minister, Paul Wheelhouse, said the Scottish government had offered BiFab support to allow its work to continue on the contracts for the Beatrice wind farm.

He said the government had also been working to help secure the firm's long-term future.

Mr Wheelhouse said: "We recognise this will be hugely concerning for the workers affected, their families, and wider communities, and we stand ready to provide support through our Partnership Action for Continuing Employment (Pace) initiative.

"We understand from BiFab that the proposed number of employees is being reduced in line with programmed contract performance and completion which reflects the cyclical nature of the business and employment patterns.

"By providing skills development and employability support, Pace aims to minimise the time individuals affected by redundancy are out of work."

He added that ministers recognised that more work remained to be done to secure the long-term future of the company, and were "fully committed" to offering support where possible to attract new investment.

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