Socialist Worker

Work-in and march helps to keep the BiFab factory open

A new deal has given workers in Fife some breathing space, report Tomáš Tengely-Evans and Raymie Kiernan

Issue No. 2581

 

Hundreds marched in Edinburgh

Hundreds marched in Edinburgh (Pic: Socialist Worker)


Workers’ action and political pressure have saved jobs, at least for now, at Burntisland Fabrications (BiFab).

A work-in and protests last week saw Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon broker an agreement.

The Scottish National Party (SNP) was under pressure to play up its left face—and wanted to avoid a real fight with the unions.

The Fife-based offshore windfarm manufacturer, which has a workforce of over 1,400 across Scotland, faced bankruptcy. It had completed 77 percent of its work on the Beatrice Wind Farm, but had only been paid for 40 percent.

Bosses at SLH, SSE and JCE Offshore, which run the renewable energy project in the North Sea, agreed a financial rescue package.

But the deal only guarantees work until 2019 at the latest when the wind farm is supposed to become fully operational.

Illusions

A GMB union member told Socialist Worker, “This is good news because it keeps the yard open, but we’re under no illusions—it’s a short term fix.

“The contract is over 75 percent completed and a lot of subcontractors will begin to be paid off.

“This gives us some breathing space between now and March 2019, but we need lasting employment.”

Sturgeon had just returned from a United Nations (UN) conference on climate change in Bonn in Germany.

At the conference she had called for “urgent action in the next two years” and said the Scottish govermment was “determined to lead by example”.

Those words would have rung particularly hollow had Sturgeon allowed BiFab to go to the wall.

Producing

The firm shifted from supplying the North Sea oil and gas industry to producing wind turbines in recent years.

The looming bankruptcy also took place against the backdrop of the Scottish Labour Party leadership contest.

The SNP wants to outflank Scottish Labour, which made some gains in the general election in June.

Over 800 workers rallied outside the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood last Thursday after a march organised by the Unite and GMB unions, and the STUC.

Workers shouted, “We demand the right to work” and heckled MSPs saying, “You’d better back us up”.

And workers had also begun a “work-in” which saw union shop stewards controlling movements in and out of the yard. The march down the Royal Mile in Edinburgh was the turning point,” said the GMB member.

“When you hear from politicians that we’re a highly skilled workforce that’s just words. But the demonstration showed that the workforce was willing to stand up and persuade them to do something.”


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