Canadian company, DF Barnes, which now runs the Arnish yard outside Stornoway and other sites in Fife, has said this week that it remains confident of success at revitalising the fabrication sites.
Following the news that the skeleton team at the Arnish and Fife sites had been cut further back, as redundancy notices issued in May kicked in, the GMB union said the yards were “effectively closed”.
Only seven part time staff have been kept on across the three Scottish sites to ensure security, with 12 Fife-based managers fully retained.
This week a number of questions were put to the owners about the future of the yards.
We asked the company:
What has DF Barnes done since making its investment in BiFab in April?
What is the company’s plans for the yards in Lewis, Burntisland and Methil - do they have a future at all?
Are there any orders imminent? If there are none, does DF Barnes intend to close the yards and walk away?
What role do the yards play within DF Barnes’ organisation if they have no work to do?
What guarantees did DF Barnes give the Scottish Government as part of the rescue package for BiFab in April?
What is DF Barnes message to the towns and to the workforce in light of the redundancies?
The company’s PR operation responded with a statement, which said that DF Barnes’ “absolute focus” was on finding new work for the yards, which once employed 400 workers with another 1000 contractors - and ensure BiFAb remains a key player in Scotland’s marine energy business.
But it added that “a laser sharp focus” was needed to deliver new work.
The statement detailed: “DF Barnes has made a long term commitment to supporting all three yards at Arnish, Burntisland and Methil.
“Working closely with the Scottish Government, our absolute focus is on securing new contracts that will strengthen communities in Fife and on the Isle of Lewis.
“We remain confident of success.
“We work very closely with union organisations in Canada and throughout North America and we encourage regular dialogue with the relevant officials.
“We have adopted the same approach since acquiring BiFab.
“We informed the trade unions in Scotland some months ago that, while there was a gap between projects, we would need to reduce the workforce.
“DF Barnes has considerable experience in manufacturing machining and fabrication of complex offshore structures and systems worldwide.
“We believe that the high quality skills of Scotland’s workforce have a critical part to play in our development, but we need to maintain a laser sharp focus on attracting new orders in order to secure everyone’s future.”
The Scottish Government, a minority shareholder following April’s deal to save the yards, said this week that Ministers were “in regular contact” with BiFab – but it also made it clear that key issues such as staffing were a matter for the bosses to sort out.
A spokesman said: “Ministers have made a long term investment in BiFab.
“However they do not participate in operational management decisions and staffing levels and office arrangements are a matter for BiFab to consider.”