Unions slam decision by governments to withdraw support for BiFab

Ministers have concluded there is no legal route for either the Scottish or UK governments to provide engineering firm BiFab with the guarantees it would need to secure its contract with Saipem in the absence of a shareholder guarantee provided by BiFab’s majority shareholder JV Driver.

In a joint statement, the governments said they have committed to exploring options for the future of the company’s yards in Fife and Lewis and to strengthen measures to support the renewables supply chain.

A joint working group will be formed to consider ways to strengthen the renewables supply chain in Scotland, and look at options for the future of the sites where BiFab currently operates and other opportunities around Scotland, in a manner consistent with respective devolved and reserved competencies.

Economy secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “The Scottish Government has been working for more than three years to support BiFab.

“We have left no stone unturned in our search for a solution to the challenges faced by the business. As a minority shareholder, we have been exhaustive in our consideration of the options available to us to financially support BiFab from public funds.

“The Scottish Government has been clear that State Aid regulations are a barrier to us providing guarantees on the contract from Saipem to build foundation jackets for the Neart na Gaoithe (NnG) project. The UK Government has similarly concluded that there is no legal route for them to provide support.

“The situation at BiFab is a culmination of a number of issues, the main one being the unwillingness of the parent company and majority shareholder JV Driver to provide working capital, investment or guarantees for the company.

“We are determined to secure a new future for the yards in Fife and the Western Isles. We will explore options for the future of these sites and, through this new working group, work with the UK Government to strengthen the renewables and clean energy supply chain.”

The STUC said the Scottish Government has acted in bad faith, adding that the timing of the statement and failure to consult with unions was designed to close down any further inspection of their decision-making process or options to save the yards.

STUC deputy general secretary Dave Moxham said: “The Scottish Government trumpets its support for ‘Fair Work’ and ‘workers voice’ at every opportunity, but when it comes to key issues such as the future of hundreds of workers at BiFab they shut up shop and conspire with the Tories to keep Scottish workers out of the picture.”

Mr Moxham said the STUC had received what they thought were cast iron guarantees from the Scottish Government that unions would be kept abreast of developments and be able to input their views. The STUC had only yesterday contacted Scottish Government officials seeking an update on developments on talks with the UK Government.

He added: “Another door has been slammed on the face of Bifab’s workers. The Scotland/UK joint government working group to be formed to consider ways to strengthen the renewables supply chain in Scotland’ is the thinnest of gruel. The abject failure of both governments to do anything to support Scottish workers - despite the ‘Saudi Arabia of renewables’ boast of each – is on show for all to see.” 

Joint union secretaries Gary Smith and Pat Rafferty said: “Until the Scottish Government publishes the legal advice over its decision to walk away from BiFab, all the difficult questions remain unanswered.

“This evening’s statement is also disappointing given that our members learned of this through the media - it makes a mockery of the so called fair work agenda.

“The demise of Scotland’s best shot at building a manufacturing supply chain for offshore wind is down to a decade of failure from successive SNP and Tory Governments.”

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