A former BiFab worker hopes a major deal for the firm’s Fife yard will spark jobs joy for locals.
Derek McIldoon was one of hundreds of people laid off last year by BiFab’s former owner JW Driver after it failed to secure key wind farm contracts.
He had to sell his house in Leven and moved to a flat in Lower Methil, in the shadow of the yard where he once worked.
While he secured temporary offshore work, he wants to get back to BiFab, where he worked as a plater.
The 65-year-old had worked at the Methil yard since the ’70s, when it was known as RDL and witnessed many changes in fortune over the years.
And he believes Friday’s announcement could mark the beginning of an upturn which will benefit the entire Levenmouth community.
The BiFab contract will see workers fabricate eight wind turbine generator foundation jackets for the Neart na Gaoithe (NnG) offshore wind farm.
We are pleased to announce the award of a c£26m wind turbine generator (WTG) fabrication contract https://t.co/8OeFDzRFCp
— Harland & Wolff (@Harland_Wolff1) April 16, 2021
“It will bring money to the area and it will be good for the shops and the bars and things like that,” Derek said.
BiFab entered administration in December after the Scottish Government withdrew its stake in the company.
But in February it was bought from the administrators by Infrastata, which will operate under it’s Harland and Wolff subsidiary.
Derek was one of those who marched on the streets of Edinburgh during the ‘Battle for BiFab’ in 2017 and he is anxious to get back to the work he loves.
“I live right across from the yard and it’s sad to see it lying empty,” he said.
“That Canadian company did nothing for us.”
He added: “I had a house down in Leven but I had to sell it because I couldn’t afford the mortgage anymore.
“There are a lot of platers and welders I worked with now working outwith their trade.
“They’re working at Amazon and places like that. It’s a waste.
“I miss all my friends because I only saw some of them at work.”
There were 1,400 men there at one time.”
Former BiFab worker Derek McIldoon.
Derek has already sent his CV to Harland and Wolff in the hope of securing work but even if he is unsuccessful, he’s happy at the prospect of work returning.
“There were 1,400 men there at one time,” he said.
“Even if they only take 300 back just now, it’s a start.
“If I don’t get a job, I hope the rest of my friends do.”
‘Now in a very good position’
The BiFab contract comes hard on the heels of further good news for Methil.
In January, Fife company CessCon won a contract to dismantle offshore platforms and is expected to create up to 50 jobs.
Fife Council’s SNP co-leader David Alexander, who also lives in Levenmouth, hailed both contracts as great news.
“With BiFab, it just shows you how quickly Harland and Wolff manage to do things,” he said.
“Compare that to the Canadian company who, in all honesty, we now know didn’t want to put any money in.
“We’re now in a very good position and it can only get better.”
He added: “In the past we’ve lived and died with one big operator but now the energy park is becoming more successful.”
Call for industrial plan
However, trade union leaders said that despite the new BiFab contract there was still a long way to go to ensure the long-term future of the industry.
Joint Trade Union secretaries Gary Smith and Pat Rafferty said: “This is a welcome development, a working yard is better than an empty yard, but it has to be the first steps in a long journey of investment and contracts for our offshore wind supply chain.
“We need to take the opportunity now to work together and set out an industrial plan for Scotland’s future.
“It’s the vital ingredient that has been missing since devolution and we can’t succeed without it.”