Unions representing workers at Burntisland Fabrication, or BiFab, have been holding emergency meetings amid concerns about its future.The firm, which has a workforce of about 1,400 people at yards in Fife and Lewis, has filed a notice of intention to appoint administrators. Unions leaders have demanded action from the Scottish government. Bifab said it was “actively in discussion” to consider options to allow it to continue trading. BiFab ‘set to call in administrators’The company has yards in Burntisland, Methill and at Arnish on Lewis and said its workforce comprised of 251 permanent staff and 1,132 agency workers.It builds large-scale equipment for the offshore oil and gas industry, as well as platforms for offshore wind turbines and tidal generators.’Challenging situation’A year ago BiFab secured a £100m contract for the manufacture of 26 offshore wind turbine jackets from the Dutch contractor Seaway Heavy Lifting (SHL), part of the £2.6bn Beatrice Offshore Windfarm Ltd (Bowl project in the Outer Moray Firth led by energy giant SSE. A statement from BiFab said it was “currently facing a critical cash position as a result of a challenging situation regarding its ongoing contracts”.The company said its directors remained “hopeful that a solution can be reached to secure the future of the business and the workforce”.Managing director Martin Adam added: “We are very disappointed that we have found ourselves in the current position which has arisen as a result of a challenging situation in respect of our ongoing contracts which have been providing much needed employment locally in Scotland. “We are seeking a rapid solution with our key stakeholders and the Scottish Executive to our current cash flow position and are hopeful that this can be achieved quickly to secure the future of the business and the 1,400-strong workforce.”The GMB union, which has 440 members across the three yards, said it had not been consulted. Its representatives were due to meet BiFab management on Monday morning and then talk to workers.Speaking on the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland radio programme, the GMB’s Scotland secretary Gary Smith said: “Every political interest in Scotland has told us that renewables are the jobs of the future and if they do not do something to secure the future of these yards then it will be a hammer-blow to their credibility.”And if the corporate interest thinks we are going to stand idly by and allow the kit that our members have been building and working on to be towed elsewhere, either on the continent or down south, then they have got another thing coming.”I want people to be pulling together to look after the interests of those yards and our members.”Pat Rafferty, leader of the Unite union in Scotland, said: “Let’s not mince words here, the Scottish government cannot stand by and watch BiFab being turned into an industrial graveyard.”Make no mistake, Unite and its sister unions will not let that happen.”The Scottish government said it would do all that it could to help. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told BBC Scotland: “BiFab is operational in a sector of our economy that is hugely positive and going from strength to strength, in terms of renewables.”Without pre-empting the discussions that will be required in the days and weeks to come, that should give us optimism that a company like BiFab can succeed.”The Scottish government will be very closely involved in this. We will leave no stone unturned to try to work with others to secure the future of this company.”
Analysis by Douglas FraserBBC Scotland business and economy editorBiFab has been a success story and one of the best hopes in Scotland for creating jobs linked to the second wind for oil, gas and offshore renewable energy.Set up in 2001 by the late John Robertson, it put new life into the activities of the 1970s and 1980s, when fabrication of giant North Sea platforms kept construction yards busy.From Burntisland, it expanded to the massive Methil yard and took on the Arnish yard on Lewis, both of which have seen boom and bust. The industry’s order books remain cyclical, but by merging offshore oil and gas with renewables, it seemed a good approach to help even out the workflow.The boom years earlier this decade for west of Shetland oil and gas fields saw Methil kept busy. With those projects coming to an end, BiFab could look to the platforms required for offshore wind arrays in the Moray Firth and off the Fife coast.The latter, called Neart na Gaoithe, was given the green light by a Supreme Court judgement in the past week, ruling against a challenge on wildlife grounds.However, the 22,000-tonne, £100m deal to build 26 of the 84 jackets for the Beatrice project in the Moray Firth, for final delivery by next April, appears to be the source of the financial difficulties. BiFab is sub-contracted to Seaway Heavy Lifting, which in turn is building the project for a consortium led by Perth-based energy firm SSE, with quarter of its funding from China.