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“Absolute scandal” if BiFab receives no work from major Scottish offshore wind projects

The BiFab yard in Methil.
The BiFab yard in Methil.

The prospect of Fife engineering firm Burntisland Fabrications receiving no work from two major Scottish offshore wind projects has been described as an “absolute scandal” by trade unions.

Unions GMB Scotland and Unite said there was a “real possibility” BiFab’s yards in Fife could end up with no work from the Moray East Offshore Windfarm and the Kincardine Floating Offshore projects near Aberdeen.

The projects have a total value of £2.8 billion and Burntisland Fabrications’ new Canadian owners DF Barnes have been actively pursuing contracts from both.

However, the fabrication work for five platforms supporting the Kincardine project have been awarded by procurement firm Cobra Wind International to the Spanish state shipbuilders Nevantia.

Meanwhile, the Moray East project procurement firm GeoSea DEME has awarded contracts for 100 turbine jackets to UAE fabricators Lamprell and Belgian steel constructors Smulders.

GMB and Unite understand that DF Barnes remain in negotiations to secure a portion of the fabrications work from the contracts allocated to both Smulders and Nevantia.

In a joint statement, GMB Scotland Secretary Gary Smith and Unite Scotland Secretary Pat Rafferty said: “There is a real possibility the yards in Fife could end up with nothing from the Moray East and Kincardine projects, which would be an absolute scandal.

“We believe DF Barnes and the Scottish Government are fighting hard to secure contracts but they are trying to negotiate their way through a spaghetti bowl of vested interest groups with established supply chains of preference.

“The truth is that state funded European energy and engineering firms, backed by Far East finance and Middle East sovereign wealth funds, are carving-up thousands of jobs and billions of pounds from our renewables sector.

“To working class communities in Burntisland and Methil this doesn’t look anything like a just transition or a green jobs revolution – it looks like a future that’s heavily rigged against their hopes for employment and prosperity.

“The immediate challenge for everyone is to try and break this international stranglehold on the Scottish renewables sector and get work and investment flowing into the Fife yards.”

BiFab sacked hundreds of workers from its yards at Burntisland and Methil in Fife and Arnish in Lewis after problems emerged in 2017.

The firm, which employed 1,400 staff at its peak, was rescued from the brink of administration by the Scottish Government before being purchased by Canadian-based DF Barnes in April last year.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We have made a long-term investment in the compan  and are in regular contact with BiFab, however we do not participate in operational management decisions.

“It was clear at the point new ownership was secured that conditions would remain challenging for the yards and new contracts would have to be won to secure future work.

“We have confidence that everything possible is being done to secure new contracts and to restore employment both in the Western Isles and Fife.”

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