Union leaders fly to Canada for crunch BiFab talks

Trade union representatives will meet with the new Canadian owners of BiFab as part of efforts to restore jobs at the firm's yards in Fife and Lewis.

Tuesday, 24th July 2018, 9:05 pm
Updated Tuesday, 24th July 2018, 9:07 pm
BiFab workers march on the Scottish Parliament. Picture: Jon Savage

Unions said redundancies at the marine engineering company have led to the effective closure of its sites at Burntisland and Methil in Fife and Arnish on Lewis, with only seven staff offered part-time positions for maintenance and security from a core workforce of 400 and 1000 contractors.

Officials from GMB Scotland and Unite will travel to Canada today for talks with senior managers at DF Barnes – the subsidiary of JV Driver – which acquired BiFab in April in a Scottish Government-backed rescue package.

The meeting follows discussions with finance and economy secretary Derek Mackay yesterday.

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In a statement Gary Smith, GMB Scotland secretary and Pat Rafferty, Unite’s Scottish secretary, said: “Our number one priority for months has been not just the rescue of a company, but the employment of people in Fife and in Lewis.

“We remain optimistic that the outlook for restoring significant levels of employment at the BiFab yards is achievable, if work can be secured.

“The new owners, alongside the Scottish Government, need to work with us to build trust through regular and meaningful dialogue on the future.

“Only by pulling together will we deliver on our ambitions for people and employment in Fife and on Lewis.”

BiFab was saved from administration last year after the Scottish Government issued a loan of £15 million to ensure it could meet its commercial commitments and deadlines.

Upon taking over the firm, DF Barnes said it had made a long-term commitment to supporting all three yards.

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.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We are in regular contact with BiFab and the latest meeting between ministers and senior representatives took place last week, while the finance secretary is meeting trade unions today.

“We have made a long-term investment in the company. However, we do not participate in operational management decisions.

“It was clear at the point new ownership was secured that conditions would remain challenging for the yards and new contracts would have to be won to secure future work.

“The workforce played a major role in securing new investment for the yards and the prospect of securing future contracts, which DF Barnes is working toward.

“We have confidence that everything possible is being done to secure new contracts and restore employment to previous levels.”