Union leaders optimistic on BiFab future after Canada talks

BiFab workers march on the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh. Picture: Jon Savage
BiFab workers march on the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh. Picture: Jon Savage
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Union leaders are optimistic about the future of the BiFab yards in Scotland after company bosses in Canada assured them they want the the sites to be a “world leader” in renewables engineering.

But to achieve that, GMB Scotland general secretary Gary Smith and Unite Scottish secretary Pat Rafferty said firms had to end the “great renewables rip off” and build more wind turbines in Scotland.

The union bosses spoke out after travelling to Canada to meet senior managers at DF Barnes–- a subsidiary of JV Driver, which acquired BiFab in April in a Scottish Government-backed rescue package.

READ MORE: Concerns raised over future of full-time jobs at Bifab

Trade unions had previously expressed concerns the three BiFab yards at Arnish on Lewis and Burntisland and Methil in Fife had effectively been closed down.

Only seven staff have been offered part-time positions for maintenance and security from a core workforce of 400 and 1,000 contractors.

But now Mr Smith and Mr Rafferty said DF Barnes and JV Driver had “satisfied us as to the company’s commitment to the Scottish yards and their determination to make those yards a success for the short and the long term”.

In a statement, the union chiefs said: “For all the wind turbines that we have in Scotland, the fact is the manufacturing supply chain is almost non-existent.

“We are satisfied now that the Canadian acquisition of BiFab is a unique opportunity to address the lack of a manufacturing supply chain in the Scottish renewables sector.

“It is also clear to us the company want to make BiFab a world leader in the renewables and energy sector with the Scottish yards being key to that success.

“The company have assured us that they are committed to working with our unions and to create a successful business that creates highly skilled jobs in Scotland.”

Both unions said their No.1 priority was “creating jobs” at the three marine engineering yards.

To do this Mr Smith and Mr Rafferty said: “It is now pressing and vital that we secure contracts for the yards which BiFab are currently tendering for.

“Our message to the wind-farm developers about to award these contract is quite simple. It cannot be the case that the people of Scotland, who pay a premium on their energy bills to subsidise the offshore wind-farms, are denied the opportunity to build those wind-farms.

“We have a fantastic skilled workforce in Scotland and the wind farms that are going to be put in Scottish waters should be built, right here in Scotland in the three Bifab yards. We are paying for them and we should build them.

“The great renewables rip off must stop now, we want jobs and opportunities for our communities.”