Pete Cannell and Willie Black report on the battle in defence of workers’ jobs at Scottish engineering firm BiFab.
Hundreds of workers from the troubled engineering company BiFab marched down Edinburgh’s Royal mile to the Scottish Parliament on Thursday. BiFab manufactures infrastructure for the offshore oil industry and for offshore wind platforms. The company is in financial difficulties as a result of contract disputes, and is on the verge of administration. It is unable to pay the wages of its 1400 workers, who are based in Burntisland, Methil and the Isle of Lewis.
Although the demonstration was called at short notice, there were contingents from unions other than GMB and Unite, which the BiFab workers belong to. The banners present included those of Prospect, PCS, Educational Institute of Scotland, UCU and Fife Trades Union Council. There were also banners from the Labour Party.
The workers have responded to the threat of redundancy with a work-in, barricading the fabrication yards to ensure that orders and machinery can’t be removed.
SNP minister Keith Brown spoke to the rally at the parliament, arguing that there is a possibility of the company being saved. Given the scale of the crisis, his words were hardly a call to arms!
BiFab is a real test for the Scottish National Party (SNP). On paper, the party is committed to developing a sustainable economy based on renewables. The skills of the BiFab workforce are critical to such a transition. But the SNP’s strategy relies on the market to deliver, and BiFab is a sharp example of how such reliance allows the big energy and construction companies to call the shots.
Scotland is well placed to blaze a trail in combating climate change. It has the natural resources and the skilled workforce that’s needed. Every job is precious in the process of transition to a low-carbon economy. An organised transition requires coordination across education, training, construction and other sectors to put people and the future of the planet before profit. The SNP have made some moves towards the idea of a green bank but relying on the market will not deliver. An integrated approach including a state energy company to coordinate a transition towards a zero-carbon economy is needed and taking BiFab into public ownership should be the first step.