SCOTTISH First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was forced to return early from an international climate change conference yesterday to attend talks on securing the future of a crisis-hit engineering and infrastructure firm.
She flew in from Germany for emergency discussions with Dutch contractors Seaway Heavy Lifting (SHL) over a payments dispute that could lead to losses of more than 1,000 jobs at Burntisland Fabrications (BiFab).
BiFab, which employs some 1,400 workers at its yards in Burntisland and Methil in Fife, and at Arnish on the Isle of Lewis, has given notice that it is going into administration.
The company won a £100 million contract last June to deliver the Beatrice Offshore Windfarm Development in the Moray Firth.
A dispute over BiFab only receiving 40 per cent of an expected payment from SHL — resulting in a shortfall of tens of millions of pounds — has led bosses to file a notice of intention to appoint administrators.
Workers have staged an unpaid work-in since Monday and hundreds marched on Holyrood on Thursday demanding action by the Scottish government to save their jobs.
Scottish Labour leadership contender Richard Leonard was at the Holyrood rally to show support.
Unions formally supported plans yesterday to continue the work-in until the dispute is resolved.
GMB spokesman Alan Ritchie said those employed at the Arnish site had agreed a resolution in line with their colleagues at the Fife yard.
“They have decided that they will work as in a work-in. They have also decided that … nothing will come in the yard, nothing will go out the yard, without the permission of the shop stewards’ committee,” he said.
Scotland’s Economy Secretary Keith Brown claimed that “very serious progress” was being made to secure the future of jobs and that ministers had a “laser-like” focus on resolving the dispute.
“The most important thing we can do, which I think has been constructive so far, is to get the parties round the table,” he told BBC Radio Scotland.
“The parties weren’t speaking, there wasn’t the prospect of a resolution to this.
“We now have very serious progress being made towards a resolution of this and that’s with the active involvement of the Scottish government.”
After Ms Sturgeon arrived back from the United Nations conference, she was joined by her Business Minister Paul Wheelhouse at an emergency meeting with SHL bosses.
The talks were continuing as the Morning Star went to press.