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Industrial Scottish Labour leader says BiFab engineering yards must be saved

SCOTLAND’S troubled BiFab engineering yards must be saved from closure, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said today as bosses issued workers redundancy notices.

The sites, which manufacture equipment for the offshore oil, gas and renewable sectors, were occupied by workers in November.

They had been threatened with closure after a payments dispute with a major contractor and BiFab also faced a costly lawsuit.

The “work-in” succeeded when ministers caved to pressure and intervened — but now work on a major contract is coming to an end.

The yards in Fife — Methil and Burntisland — and Arnish on the Isle of Lewis employ 251 permanent staff and 1,132 agency workers who are represented by the Unite and GMB unions.

Mr Leonard said BiFab was a “nationally important strategic asset” for the Scottish economy and needed to be saved.

“When there’s such a large amount of public money being invested in renewable energy, it’s about time we made demands that the job benefits from that investment stay in Scotland,” he said.

“I don’t think it’s unreasonable for us to be calling, on a cross-party basis, for a whole new approach to industrial strategy so that we have more planning in the economy and avoid this almost incessant lurch from one industrial crisis to the next.”

A GMB Scotland spokesman said: “We don’t accept that all is lost, far from it, but time is of the essence.

“Next week we have a crunch meeting with the Scottish government and thereafter we will have a better understanding about new investment coming into the yards and the long-term future.”

Unite official Bob McGregor said: “The closures of these yards will turn these areas into an industrial graveyard. The prospect fills us with dismay.”

There has been speculation that the yards could be taken over by a Canadian firm, but bosses’ current timetable would see them closed by the end of the summer.

The GMB spokesman said: “Nobody should be under any illusions about how tough this is on our members and their families, but everything that can be done to secure the future of Arnish, Burntisland and Methil is being done.”

BiFab said the issuing of the notices was “not a decision that redundancies will take place” for certain.

“This type of action is typical to previous positions we found ourselves in, being a project-orientated-type organisation,” a spokesman said.

The company has bid for new contracts which remain under tender in the renewable and oil and gas sectors.

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