MP fears redundancies could risk BiFab contracts

Lesley Laird MP has called on the Scottish Government and BiFab’s owners DF Barnes to reveal its plans to bring work back to the yards in Burntisland, Methil and Arnish.

The move by the Shadow Scottish Secretary comes days after the Canadian firm – which took over BiFab in a rescue deal in April – laid off all but seven part-time workers.

The yards previously had a core workforce of 400 and a further 1,000 contractors.

Lesley Laird, whose constituency includes Burntisland, branded the redundancies as “deeply concerning” and expressed fears a reduced workforce would “significantly weaken” BiFab’s chances of securing future contracts.

In a letter to Scottish Government Minister for Finance, Economy and Fair Work, Derek Mackay, she wrote: “DF Barnes’ takeover announcement earlier this year – which was facilitated by the government – sparked renewed hope that BiFab’s circumstances would be turned around quickly enough to prevent further losses to the core workforce.

“While it was recognised that circumstances for the firm remained challenging, my understanding was that DF Barnes intended to retain a core workforce and upskill employees during a gap between contracts, in order to diversify BiFab’s bidding opportunities and improve the firm’s chances of securing future work.

“There were also expectations among workers of a contract due to start in October.  Neither of these hopes came to fruition.”

Following DF Barnes’ statement last week that it remained “confident of success” but securing new contracts would require “laser-sharp focus” to succeed, the MP wrote to the firm’s president, Glenn Byrne asking for more details.

In her letter to Mr Mackay, she also asked what support the Scottish Government would give DF Barnes in pursuing its plans.

She wrote: “Did the Scottish Government anticipate the workforce being reduced to this extent when a takeover deal was secured and, as a stakeholder in the firm, what powers does the Scottish Government have to hold DF Barnes to account for its actions?”

In a later statement, Lesley added : “I can’t simply sit back and be mollified with qualified statements of future success given the scale of redundancies which have hit BiFab in recent months.

“Workers in Burntisland, Methil and Arnish – who fought so bravely and determinedly to keep their jobs in those yards – also deserve better than that.   They need to know the reasons why this ‘rescue deal’ failed to live up to their expectations and what realistic prospects lie in store for those yards in the near future.

“With no ready workforce on the payroll, I’m worried about BiFab’s ability to compete successfully for contracts and I look forward to learning how DF Barnes and the Scottish Government propose to overcome that situation.

“These are strategic sites and key industry for Scotland and we need some clear answers – and a clear strategy.”

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