BiFab comes to the end of the road!

There was shock on the islands today as the BiFab board made an announcement that it was placing the business into administration.
The ‘Save Arnish’ campaign say they will continue the fight in an attempt to secure whatever best deal is available for workers.The ‘Save Arnish’ campaign say they will continue the fight in an attempt to secure whatever best deal is available for workers.
The ‘Save Arnish’ campaign say they will continue the fight in an attempt to secure whatever best deal is available for workers.

This follows what was appearing to be a tit-for-tat blame game between the Scottish and UK governments, unions and the company itself over who was ultimately to blame.

The main problem here appears to have been the fact that contract work went overseas to cheaper contractors who placed bids for the work at a lower rate than BiFab did.

Now, the way we see it, if you want some electrical work done on your home, you call in three electricians to provide quotes, and, generally, you’ll take the lowest one, all else being well.

Isn’t that what’s happened here? Well, some will say yes, while there are plenty others who say that these lower bids that won contracts had been unfairly subsidised by other third parties, meaning that BiFab bids were never going to win the work in question.

No matter who is to blame, what we must NEVER lose sight of is, this is a human tragedy. Many people are going to lose their jobs three weeks before Christmas. Some might be lucky to find something else, many will not.

We must, wherever possible offer these people our support, a helping hand to ensure they know they’re not forgotten amid the rubble of accusations, mud-slinging and the blame game.

In a statement, the firm said: “BiFab can confirm that the board has agreed to place the company in administration following the Scottish government’s decision to remove contract assurances.”

Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “I know this will be an extremely worrying time for BiFab’s workers and we will continue to do everything in our power to support them and stand ready to work with any company interesting in taking on the yards. The skills and dedication of the workforce is recognised throughout the renewables and offshore industry.”

STUC General Secretary Roz Foyer said: “Today’s announcement is the latest stage in a sorry saga of government and corporate failure with the victims being workers and their families from Fife to the Islands.

“Despite plans for billions of pounds of offshore wind investment, manufacture and construction, major elements of future projects including jacket construction currently appear destined for low cost labour countries in the East and/or state-supported European competitors.”

Joint Trade Union Secretaries Gary Smith and Pat Rafferty said: “BiFab’s administration exposes the myth of Scotland’s renewables revolution as well as a decade of political hypocrisy and failure.

“The workers and communities dependent on these yards have fought so hard for a future.

“Shamefully the Scottish Government has buried these hopes just in time for Christmas and they have worked with UK Government in doing so.

“A decade on from the promise of a ‘Saudi Arabia of renewables’ and 28,000 jobs in offshore wind manufacturing, we’ve been left with industrial ruins in Fife and Lewis.”

Local MSP Alasdair Allan said: “It is frustrating to see BiFab again fall into administration.

“The promise of inward investment and contracts when BiFab was taken over has been followed by a lack of corporate investment. It is ultimately the responsibility of JV Driver, as the majority shareholder, to provide that investment.

“There is no legal route for the Scottish Government or the UK Government to provide further financial support to BiFab in the absence of a shareholder guarantee and investment from the majority shareholder.

“The focus now has to be on securing a future for the yard. I will be pressing the Scottish Government as I did yesterday in Parliament, to ensure all options are kept open so that Arnish can be the integral part of our green recovery that it deserves to be.”

In light of the BiFab administration announcement the Comhairle has been engaging with the Scottish Government in regard to the establishment of a multi-agency Taskforce to explore the future use of the Arnish Yard facility.

Comhairle Leader Roddie Mackay said: “We have previously discussed a taskforce with Cabinet Secretary Fiona Hyslop and it is now time to put that into action. Whilst today’s news is disappointing it was apparent that Bifab’s days at Arnish were numbered and this doesn’t come as a great surprise. At least this should free up the Lewis yard to become a free standing agent and to hopefully attract other operators.

We will be seeking discussions with Scottish Government, HIE and workforce representatives with a view to convening a taskforce as soon as possible. The economy of the Western Isles is facing major challenges. Now is the time for all parties to work together to secure a sustainable future for what is a major islands’ asset”.

At the time of going to press we had received no response from the Action for Arnish group while local island MP, Angus MacNeil was unavailable for comment this morning due to meetings.