UP TO 3,000 jobs are under threat at oil rig building yards in the Scottish Highlands. The yards, owned by Barmac, are at Nigg and Ardersier, both near Inverness, and are the largest private sector employer in the Highlands. Closure, which bosses say could happen next spring, could devastate the area.
Leaders of the workers' AEEU union are calling for a government plan to rescue the yard through finding a buyer, on the model of the rescue of the Clyde's Kvaerner Govan yard earlier this year. But that deal saw many workers' jobs go down the road. Workers at Barmac have shown they can fight, with several unofficial disputes over the last year. That spirit could be harnessed to save the yards. The North Sea oil industry will need work doing for years to come.
A demand that the New Labour government should nationalise the yards and plan the work to ensure jobs over the coming years in the Highlands could find a real echo among workers across Britain. If that demand is linked to action by the workforce the government could be forced to intervene, and there would be no need to go cap in hand seeking a new private buyer. Union officials are due to meet ministers in the Scottish Executive. They should demand nationalisation, and, if they don't, workers should look to their own strength, take action and bring their demand en masse to the Scottish Parliament.