Union leaders representing the last remaining workers at Fife fabricator BiFab have hit out at “jam tomorrow” promises made by the group’s new owner.
GMB and the Unite union said they had hoped DF Barnes executives would come to their first face-to-face meeting this week since April’s takeover with news of solid progress in the battle to re-energise the company’s yards at Burntisland, Methil and Arnish on the Isle of Lewis.
However, in a internal communique to members seen by The Courier, the unions said they were told no new work had been secured by the contractor and the remaining workforce would be cut again to just a small team handling basic maintenance.
BiFab teetered on the brink of collapse after hitting financial problems late last year as a major subsea jackets contract for the Beatrice wind farm – the only significant order on its books – moved towards completion.
The meeting with the unions came a month after 35 staff of a remaining core 43-strong workforce were issued with redundancy notices.
“After the appalling way the redundancy announcement last month was handled, we went in to the meeting hopeful that lessons would have been learned and that the senior executives would be prepared to engage with the unions in a meaningful way,” GMB Scotland Secretary Gary Smith and Unite Scottish Secretary Pat Rafferty wrote.
“We hoped that there would something positive to say about the future of the three yards. The executives from DF Barnes talked at length about the experiences of the company and the positive culture in their business.
“They also advised us that there was a large amount of effort going to win new contracts that will secure the long-term future of the yards.
“However, the reality is that there is no work coming to sustain our ‘core’ staff in the short-term and as far as they are concerned the redundancies will be happening.
“What we were offered amounted to nothing more than a promise of ‘jam tomorrow’.”
The unions also claimed senior management roles were being retained while ordinary workers were losing their jobs.
The document states the Battle for BiFab continues and said members should expect to hear from their respective union conveners in the coming days about the next steps to be taken.
No further details were outlined in the document.
“Frankly, we consider this an injustice,” Mr Smith and Mr Rafferty continued.
“The people who campaigned to save these yards and whom we have been told are BiFab’s biggest asset will be sacked while some of the people who helped run the company into the ground are being kept on the payroll.
“Against the backdrop of significant taxpayer support for DF Barnes / JV Driver and with so much to be done to get the yards cleaned up and fit for the future in our view, money should have been found to retain more core industrial staff.
“The engagement from DF Barnes / JV Driver with the trade unions has been poor. We have been kept in the dark whilst livelihoods have been lost.
“There is clearly no understanding from the Canadian senior executives about the role the trade union have played in keeping the yards open.
“Their attitude has been pretty contemptuous toward the unions and that isn’t acceptable.
“We understand that there is no work in the yards and it is a tough position but DF Barnes / JV Driver have done very well out of the Scottish taxpayer, they are not here out of the goodness of their hearts.
“As such they will not get a free ride from the trade unions.”
The Courier has contacted BiFab for comment.