Cross-party effort to help secure BiFab jobs

MSPs from five political parties have united to urge the UK Government to help save jobs at engineering firm Burntisland Fabrications.

The company, known as BiFab, operates yards at Methil and Burntisland in Fife and Arnish on Lewis in the Western Isles.

It notified the Scottish Government earlier this month of the potential for redundancies, with union leaders warning that 260 jobs could go by the summer.

In November, the yards were threatened with closure over a dispute with a major sub-subcontractor on the Beatrice wind farm contract for the Cromarty Firth.

Scottish ministers brokered a deal to stave off administration until the end of the project but BiFab said work is almost complete with no future contracts currently in place.

Now 19 MSPs from Labour, the SNP, Conservatives, Greens and Liberal Democrats have written to Business Secretary Greg Clark calling on the UK Government to do all it can to encourage contracts to come to BiFab.

They would like to see the work for the Kincardine Offshore Windfarm Project be awarded to the firm by the developers.

The letter was sent following a meeting organised by Claire Baker, Labour MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife.

It states: "As the Beatrice contract comes to an end, it is clear to us that the only way to secure the future of these yards and the skilled workforce is with the guarantee of a new contract.

"During the recent threat of administration, we saw the dedication and value of BiFab's workforce. Whilst the challenges at BiFab have been well documented in recent months, at no point have the skills, experience, commitment and determination of the workforce been in doubt.

"This highly skilled group of workers deserve our support and there are concerns that if no statement of intent regarding the awarding of a new contract is given, that these jobs will be lost to other areas or lost from the economy completely.

"This would be a tragedy for local communities and devastating for the local economies of the areas in question."

It says that the renewable energy industry could provide a "lifeline to revitalise our indigenous fabrication, engineering and steel industry base" and adds: "We are aware that there are a number of contracts coming up in the near future for fabrication work with the first expected to be the awarding of the Kincardine Offshore Windfarm Project.

"We would urge in the strongest terms that this contract take into account its wider responsibility to the Scottish economy and believe that BiFab would be best placed to receive the contract.

"We recognise that the decision on which companies will be awarded roles in these projects is not within the discretion of the UK Government and that it is a commercial decision...

"We are asking you and the UK Government to do all that you can to encourage contracts to come to BiFab."

The development comes after union representatives met Scottish Economy Secretary Keith Brown on Thursday for talks.

GMB Scotland secretary Gary Smith said "everyone is doing everything in their power" to secure workers' jobs at the yards.