Gov­ern­ment to ‘pull out all the stops’ to save BiFab

Econ­omy Sec­re­tary claims it is in Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment’s in­ter­est to save com­pany

The Courier & Advertiser (Perth and Perthshire Edition) - - NEWS - CRAIG SMITH csmith@the­

The Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment has pledged to “pull out all the stops” to se­cure a fu­ture for BiFab and its work­force.

Up to 1,400 jobs are on the line at the en­gi­neer­ing com­pany’s yards in Methil, Burn­tis­land and Ar­nish, with unions and man­age­ment locked in talks yes­ter­day as ef­forts to stave off ad­min­is­tra­tion con­tinue.

While “dis­puted pay­ments” be­tween par­ties in the pri­vate sec­tor have been blamed for the sit­u­a­tion, Econ­omy Sec­re­tary Keith Brown said it was in the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment’s in­ter­ests to try to en­sure a pos­i­tive out­come.

Re­spond­ing to a ques­tion from Kirk­caldy MSP David Tor­rance, Mr Brown said: “Dis­cus­sions are on­go­ing with the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment, Scot­tish Enterprise and the com­pany and this gov­ern­ment is fully ex­plor­ing all op­tions avail­able to save the com­pany and the jobs which de­pend on it. The Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment and Scot­tish Enterprise are con­tin­u­ing these dis­cus­sions and we’re en­cour­ag­ing all par­ties to work con­struc­tively to find a so­lu­tion.

“I do ap­pre­ci­ate that this is a very con­cern­ing time for the work­force, but this gov­ern­ment is com­mit­ted to do­ing ev­ery­thing we can to find a pos­i­tive so­lu­tion to this sit­u­a­tion.”

Unions have claimed the en­gi­neer­ing firm’s fi­nan­cial dif­fi­cul­ties are a re­sult of the main Dutch-owned con­trac­tor, Se­away Heavy Lift­ing (SHL), not pay­ing the com­pany for con­tract work al­ready com­pleted, with Unite Scot­tish sec­re­tary Pat Raf­ferty say­ing BiFab was be­ing “held to ran­som”.

Green MSP Mark Ruskell urged min­is­ters to pro­vide as­sis­tance to the re­new­able en­ergy com­pany in tak­ing up SHL’s of­fer “to sup­port BiFab’s work­force” and in­clude di­a­logue with the Dutch gov­ern­ment.

“It’s not in the re­new­able in­dus­try sec­tor’s in­ter­est for BiFab to go into ad­min­is­tra­tion,” he said.

Mr Brown said there were no im­me­di­ate plans for any dis­cus­sions with the Dutch gov­ern­ment, but ac­knowl­edged SHL was “cen­tral to the con­tract” it­self.

“There has been some move­ment in terms of the will­ing­ness of dif­fer­ent part­ners to try and come to a so­lu­tion,” Mr Brown added.

Mid Scot­land and Fife Labour MSP Claire Baker and Tory coun­ter­part Alexan­der Ste­wart both sug­gested de­lays in pay­ments had con­trib­uted to BiFab’s prob­lems, but Mr Brown said it was more a case of “dis­puted” pay­ments.

SNP Mid Fife and Glen­rothes MSP Jenny Gil­ruth asked if con­sid­er­a­tion had been given to set­ting up a task­force in re­sponse to the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion.

Mr Brown replied: “I think at this stage our fo­cus is on mak­ing sure the com­pany stays vi­able and the jobs stay in place and we have all the re­sources and the dif­fer­ent par­ties avail­able to do that.”

A spokesman from SHL said the firm wel­comed the in­ter­ven­tion of the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment and was work­ing ex­tremely hard to find ways of sup­port­ing BiFab.

“We re­main sup­port­ive of a res­cue pack­age that is en­dorsed by and in­volves all stake­hold­ers,” he added.

“SHL has al­ways been keen to sup­port BiFab’s work­force but we need a longterm plan from BiFab to en­sure fi­nan­cial sta­bil­ity and project com­ple­tion.”

Pic­ture: Tina Nor­ris

Up to 1,400 jobs are at risk at BiFab.

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